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Tibetan nuns to speak about Chinese abuse

Tibetan nuns, Chuye Kunsang and Passang Lhamo, will discuss their experiences regarding human rights violations at the Drapchi Prison in Tibet by Chinese authorities today at 7 p.m. in Smith Center 328-329.

The event, entitled “The Plight of Two Tibetan Nuns: Torture in Drapchi Prison,” is sponsored by Amnesty International and the Northwest Cultural Association, and will “hopefully give people a sense of the real picture in Tibet,” said Joanne Lau, the China Regional Action Network Coordinator of Amnesty Group 48.

“We usually get information about Tibet from indirect sources, like books, which can be helpful, but it’s not same as talking,” Lau explained.

The two nuns were imprisoned for peacefully protesting the persecution of Tibetans by the Chinese government. Both were subjected to cruel treatment while in custody, and upon release, were not allowed to talk about their experiences, leading them to become exiles and embark on their current international tour which brings them to Portland for one of their few West Coast stops.

Their lectures in Europe have been well received by members of parliament and media in various countries.

Drapchi is now infamous for its detention and abuse of Tibetan political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, who are defined as those imprisoned solely for their race, religion or non-violent political beliefs.

The female prisoners at Drapchi suffer very poor working conditions, endless work hours and inadequate medical care, with severe beatings and torture with electric batons used as enforcement of the rules. They suffer acts of rape and public degradation at the hands of male guards.

Kunsang was held at Drapchi from February 1995 to February 1999, after being arrested for a peaceful demonstration in the capital of Lhasa against the lack of religious freedom in Tibet. She was then subject to numerous beatings and constant abuse. Lhamo was detained at 19 years of age in May 1994 and released in May 1999, after receiving similar ill treatment. This included a stint in solitary confinement for her participation in shouting slogans in support of the Dalai Lama during Chinese flag raising ceremonies on May 1 and 4 of 1998. The punishment given by security officials involved the use rifle butts, iron rods, electric batons and belt buckles, and resulted in nine deaths.

“Amnesty is obviously very concerned with such human rights abuses in Tibet, as political prisoners under the Chinese government have no right to practice the freedom of speech promised under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Lau commented. “We’re hoping that through this event we can raise awareness of the situation and bring attention to the names of prisoners of conscience still being held, so that they won’t be ignored.

“We think people need to know about the situation in Tibet, and this is a first-hand experience for people to hopefully be convinced to help with the campaign, regardless of whether you are an Amnesty member or not. We need people to help sign petitions and write letters to their Congressman, which has helped with campaigns in the past, in China and elsewhere,” Lau continued. “The U.S. has the power to improve the situation, as in the past, China has released prisoners right before a President would visit. Our relationship is contradicting, however, as we are interested in the business aspect of China but not the human rights.”