Due to the opaque nature of Chinese statistics and record keeping, it is very difficult for outsiders to ascertain the exact number of Tibetan political prisoners held by China. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy political prisoner database contains 2,059, while the 2021 State Department Human Rights Report lists a range of anywhere between 500 to 2,000 Tibetan political prisoners currently in detention. The prisoners listed below are frequently included in the International Campaign for Tibet’s advocacy work.
Tibetan political prisoners endure harsh prison conditions, including torture, deprivation of food and sleep, and long periods in isolation cells. Tibetan political prisoners are frequently convicted of “crimes” relating to peaceful political activities, and for simply exercising their fundamental human rights. In the current political climate imposed by Chinese authorities, even the most mild expressions of Tibetan cultural or religious identity can be punished by torture and arrest.
After protests swept across Tibet in March 2008, Chinese authorities resorted to harsh measures in their attempts to subdue and silence the Tibetan people. Details of the exact number of Tibetans imprisoned, tortured and disappeared since 2008 are not known. The Chinese government has refused to answer legitimate questions from international organizations and other governments regarding the use of lethal force against unarmed protestors, or the welfare of individual detainees.
ICT’s 2015 report, Torture and Impunity, detailed the specific cases of 14 Tibetans who died as a result of torture in custody in recent years, as well as the 15 others who survived but suffered serious and lasting harm from their imprisonment. For some examples of the results of successful advocacy, please see the cases of Takna Jigme Sangpo and Ngawang Sangdrol.