Choeying Kunsang and Passang Lhamo

Choeying Kunsang (left) and Passang Lhamo (right) (Marco Okhuizen)

While China’s Vice President Hu Jintao met with Bush Administration officials yesterday at the White House, two Tibetan nuns testified before Congress about their experiences as political prisoners in Tibet’s Chinese-run prison system.

The nuns, Choeying Kunsang and Passang Lhamo, testified on Capitol Hill for the Congressional Human Rights Caucus about their experiences in Lhasa’s notorious Drapchi prison.

“While Hu was in Washington with the intention of treading lightly on this political testing ground, these nuns spoke honestly to the legacy of harsh policies that Hu has left behind him in Tibet,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

Choeying Kunsang and Passang Lhamo were transferred to Drapchi in the mid 1990’s while serving sentences for peacefully demonstrating against the Chinese occupation of Tibet, deemed ‘endangering state security’ by Chinese authorities.

In Drapchi they endured physical and psychological torture and witnessed innumerable human rights violations. Although threatened with dire consequences if they ever spoke of what happened inside Drapchi, they escaped from Tibet to help bring attention to the reality of Chinese occupation there.

Hu Jintao, the man most likely to be the next leader of China, was Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region from 1988 – 1992, and implemented martial law in Lhasa in 1989.

During his tenure, hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners were detained, at least 24 of whom remain in Drapchi prison. Among their cases are some of the most egregious examples of China’s campaign against the Tibetan identity.

Also during Hu’s time in Tibet, the methodology of dealing with political prisoners changed to embrace tools of intimidation such as the isolation of troublesome individual prisoners from the general prison population and the use of mass prison beatings and sentence extensions.