Takna Jigme Sangpo (Takna, which means “Tiger’s Nose,” is a family title). Sangpo, a primary school teacher, served 13 years in prison on initial charges of “corrupting the minds of children with revolutionary ideas.” Later detained for putting up independence posters in Lhasa, his determination to resist Chinese repression eventually resulted in a cumulative sentence of 41 years, due to expire in 2011—at age 83.
Sangpo remains an irrepressible champion of human rights and staunch supporter of Tibetan freedom, in spite of the repressive environment imposed on Tibetan political prisoners in Drapchi prison. Frustrated by his refusal to “reform,” Chinese authorities have harshly singled him out for staging demonstrations and hunger strikes within prison. His 1983 sentencing papers stated that, “Even after the defendant was arrested, he continued to propagate and support reactionary views; openly raised reactionary slogans; sang the Tibetan national anthem; and on top of this, continued to claim that he will struggle for Tibetan independence.”
Undeterred, he shouted “Free Tibet!” during a 1991 Swiss delegation prison visit. The incident earned him an 8-year sentence extension. After a 1998 demonstration, then 72 years old, he was reportedly beaten and put in prolonged solitary confinement. Sangpo established a pattern of timing his protests carefully for the greatest impact, which may also account for the severe repercussions meted out at the hands of prison officials.
In recent years, Jigme Sangpo’s health was of great concern. Chinese authorities admitted that he has suffered from hypertension in detention. Until his release, he remained an elderly prisoner not satisfied to quietly wait out the remainder of his prison term.
A LIFETIME OF STRUGGLE
1960: Age 32. Working as a teacher at the Lhasa Primary School he is detained and charged with “corrupting the minds of children with reactionary ideas.”
1964: Age 36. Sentenced to three years imprisonment in Sangyip prison for making comments regarding Chinese repression of Tibetans. He is later sent to a labor camp in Lhasa.
1970: Age 42. Re-arrested and sentenced to 10 years hard labor in Sangyip prison on charges of inciting his niece to escape to India to report Chinese atrocities to the Dalai Lama.
1979: Age 51. Released from prison and transferred to the “Reform-through-Labor Unit No. 1” in Nyethang (60 km west of Lhasa)
1983: Age 55. He is seen on July 12, openly pasting a “personally written” poster on the main gate of the Tsuklagkhang Temple, Lhasa.
Rearrested on September 3 by the Lhasa City Public Bureau.
Sentenced for the third time on November 30, to 15 years imprisonment for “spreading and inciting counterrevolutionary propaganda,” with an additional 5 years deprivation of political rights. His official sentencing papers, issued by the Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court, state that he “has previously served prison terms on the guilt of counterrevolutionary crimes, but has never seriously reconsidered his past counterrevolutionary crimes.”
1987: Age 59. In support of the mass demonstrations nearby in Lhasa, he stages his own protest on October 5, by shouting slogans when the prisoners are gathering for breakfast.
1988: Age 60. In Drapchi Prison, more than a year after his 1987 protest, he is persecuted for raising “reactionary slogans” concerning Chinese suppression. He is found guilty on November 30, of “Spreading and inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda.” His sentence is extended by 5 years. His deprivation of political rights is extended by one year.
1991: Age 63. Leads a protest on December 6, from within his cell in Drapchi prison, during a visit by Swiss government officials. Prisoners shout pro-independence and pro-Dalai Lama slogans, which are heard by the delegation. He is consequently beaten and put in solitary confinement for six weeks. According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy: Takna Jigme Sangpo was dragged from the room after the delegation was requested to leave, and beaten so severely that his body became numb.
1992: Age 64. On April 4, his sentence is further increased by eight years and an additional three years deprivation of civil and political rights bringing his current sentence to 28 years.
1998: Age 70. Demonstrations occur in Drapchi on May 1 & 4, among both criminal and political prisoners, during Chinese flag raising ceremonies. The repercussions include wide scale,
prolonged beatings and reports of deaths from maltreatment. He is reportedly isolated in solitary confinement, interrogated and beaten.
*2002: Age 74. Released from prison; comes to the U.S.
2011: Age 83. By his release date on September 3, Takna Jigme Sangpo would have spent 41 years of his life in prison.