Phuntsog Nyidron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, has been in prison for more than 12 years. On October 14, 1989, shortly after learning that the announcement that the Dalai Lama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Phuntsog and five other nuns from the Michungri Nunnery held a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet. They were all arrested and jailed. Phuntsog was 20 years old at the time of the arrest. According to released prisoners, Phuntsog and the other nuns were severely beaten at the time of arrest.
The five nuns with Phuntsog were sentenced to three years of administrative detention. Phuntsog, however, was sentenced to nine years in Drapchi Prison. In 1993, after recording Tibetan independence songs with 13 other nuns in Drapchi prison, Phuntsog’s sentence was extended by eight years, for a total sentence of 17 years.
Phuntsog Nyidron is in poor health and reportedly suffers from internal pains, which is often a result of torture.
The municipal court in Lhasa reduced Phuntsog Nyidron’s sentence by one year because she has “shown signs of repentance in recent years” according to a Chinese official source. On February 26, 2004, Phuntsog Nyidron was freed. Her release came one year before the end of her 16-year prison term. Phuntsog’s release marks a major victory: she was the last of a group of nuns known as the “Drapchi 14” to be released, a group of 14 nuns who received sentence extensions while in prison for recording a tape of freedom songs and smuggling it out of prison.
On March 15, 2006, Phuntsog Nyidron arrived in the United States, two years after her release from Drapchi Prison. Phuntsog Nyidron’s arrival in the US followed a number of other early releases of well-known political prisoners in recent years, generally timed to coincide with specific periods of US-China engagement involving criticisms of Beijing’s human rights record.
The International Campaign for Tibet welcomed Phuntsog Nyidron’s arrival in Washington, D.C. At the same time as celebrating Nyidron’s arrival, it was important to note that despite serious engagement between the US and China over the years, there has been little or no progress on fundamental human rights issues in Tibet. Tibetans like Phuntsog Nyidron continue to suffer torture and imprisonment simply for the peaceful expression of their views. The International Campaign for Tibet will continue to call on the People’s Republic of China to take systematic and structural steps to improve human rights in Tibet.
Seeing Nothing but the Sky
In 1994, Phuntsog Nyidron, Ngawang Sangdrol and 12 other nuns clandestinely recorded songs and poems in tribute to their homeland and His Holiness the Dalai Lama from inside Drapchi prison. The recording made it out of Tibet and the international community heard the haunting songs tell of the hardships of prison life and the women’s undying cry for freedom. The CD, “Seeing Nothing but the Sky” is available through the Free Tibet Campaign in London.
Here are the lyrics to the song “May No Others Suffer Like This“:
Song of sadness in our hearts
We sing this to our brothers and friends
What we Tibetans feel in this darkness will pass
The food does not sustain body or soul
Beatings impossible to forget
This suffering inflicted upon us
May no others suffer like this
In the heavenly realm, the land of snows
Land of unending peace and blessings
May Avaloketisvara Tenzin Gyatso
Reign supreme throughout all eternity