|| Chinese 'Justice' & Detention Centres in Tibet
Political Prisoner Rights and Chinese 'Justice' / Detention Centres in Tibet
According to Chinese law, people can be detained in the following three ways:
1. The judicial process, which includes a trial and sentencing by a court.
2. An administrative sentencing for up to three years, which does not require any trial or court action.
With no legal process, where suspects are detained for a certain period
of time, and then released without being charged or sentenced.
who have been sentenced through the judicial system are detained in
either prisons or laogai (reform through labour centres). According to
the 1997 revised Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) there are now no more
laogai, although some of the prisons in the Tibetan Autonomous Region
(TAR) still make extensive use of forced labour and can be said to be
laogai in all but name. There are also many forced labour camps in
non-TAR Tibet, especially in the Qinghai Province, which is reputed to
have the largest concentration of laogai in China.
sentences are decided upon with no trial, and no defence is possible.
Those prisoners sentenced administratively are sent to laojiao
(re-education through labour centres), and the maximum sentence is
three years. The work done at these institutions ranges from tending
vegetables and emptying septic pits to cutting stone blocks and
construction work. The most well known laojiao is colloquially known as
Trisam Prison, and is situated 14 km west of the Lhasa City centre.
prisoners detained without any legal process are sent to Public
Security Bureau (PSB) Detention Centres. To give an idea of prisoners
rights, according to the revised CPL, the maximum length of time a
prisoner can be detained without being formally arrested is three
months. However, there are numerous perfectly legal ways (according to
Chinese law) that this period can be extended to six months, a year or
even longer. There is at least one PSB Detention Centre for each
county, prefecture and province. In the TAR alone, there are 78 county
PSB Detention Centers, seven prefectural ones and one at provincial
level. Prisoners sentenced administratively are also sometimes held in
PSB Detention Centres. Prisoners held in PSB Detention Centres who have
not yet been sentenced are not generally allowed to leave their cells
except for interrogation and five minutes once a day to empty their
toilet container. They have nothing to do all day except wait to be
interrogated again. They are often either kept in solitary confinement
or not allowed to talk to their cellmates. The most well known PSB
Detention Centre is commonly known as 'Gutsa Prison'. Gutsa is the PSB
Detention Center for the Lhasa prefecture.
Prisons in the Tibetan
Drapchi Prison, officially TAR Prison Number One, is situated in the
northeast outskirts of Lhasa City, a short bicycle ride from several
tourist hotels. Over 620 political prisoners have been held at Drapchi
since 1987, out of which around 140 are still being detained there. Drapchi
is one of the worst chinese prisons and has the worst record in Tibet for death due to severe abuse while in
custody, with at least 25 deaths due to severe abuse since 1989.
Officially TAR Prison Number Two, Powo Tramo lies 650 km east of Lhasa
in Pome County, in the Kongpo Prefecture. Seven political prisoners are
currently serving sentences there, and since 1987, at least 16 have been
held there. Powo Tramo is notorious for its harsh conditions caused by
cold, damp weather and difficult forced labor linked to the forestry
Lhasa Prison (Utritru)
Lhasa Prison, formerly known as Utritru Prison, is about three kilometers
northeast of the Jokhang Temple, and is part of a group of prisons collectively
known as Sangyib. Despite its central location, only 30 political prisoners
have been held at Lhasa Prison, and none are currently there. After the
May 1998 protests at Drapchi though, several political prisoners were
held in the solitary confinement cells at Lhasa Prison, as all those
at Drapchi were occupied. Most of the forced labor involves making bricks
and cutting stone blocks.
Prisons in non-TAR Tibet
Maowun Prison is situated in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture,
in Sichuan Province. Several political prisoners have been sent to Maowun
from neighboring Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP). During the
1990s, at least 15 Tibetan political prisoners have been held at Maowun
Prison, out of which eight are still serving sentences there.
The Rang-nga-khang is actually a network of prisons
located in Dardo and Dawu counties, Kardze TAP. Prisoners
are sent to gold mines there,
and are made to fulfill daily excavation quotas despite meager food
and little sleep. According to Tsering Dorje, who was detained
there in the
early 1990s, prisoners are often beaten there, sometimes so badly
that limbs were broken and eyes dislodged. Several Chinese
had no relatives to supplement food, were driven to suicide, while
other prisoners injured or mutilated themselves to avoid
excavation work. It
is not clear how many Tibetan political prisoners are currently serving
Other Prisons Where Tibetans are Held
There are at least ten laogai in or around Xining, Qinghai Prefecture.
At these laogai a variety of products, such as steel products, leather
and fur clothes, and hydroelectric equipment are produced.
This is an area with a high Tibetan population, but it is
not clear how many Tibetans are being detained there. It
seems that many Tibetans are being held at the Hydroelectric
Equipment Factory (234 out of a total of about 900 prisoners),
and it has been reported that some political prisoners have
been held there.
Laojiao (Re-education through
Labor Centers) in the TAR
Trisam Laojiao opened in 1992, and is situated 14km to the west of
Lhasa City center. About 170 political prisoners have been detained
at Trisam, but only five are currently serving sentences there. Prisoners
are made to work in the vegetable gardens or on construction sites,
where they have to cut stone blocks and carry heavy stone blocks and
bricks as well as other general building work. Prisoners work over
eight hours a day, and are given days off about once a fortnight. The
work is very strenuous and it is not uncommon for prisoners to faint
while they are working. Prisoners sometimes become so weak that they
cannot walk properly and have to lean on the wall for support.
Four prisoners are known to have died as a result of abuse
at Trisam, three of them soon after release and one while
in custody. The youngest victim was Sherab Ngawang, who was
only twelve years old when she was arrested for joining an
independence demonstration in 1992. She was sentenced to
three years imprisonment and then sent to Trisam, where she
was constantly being beaten, sometimes with electric prods.
She died on April 17, 1995 at the age of fifteen. Reports
from her funeral indicate that her stomach and kidneys were
Chamdo Laojiao opened in 1998, and is near Chamdo, the capital of the
Chamdo Prefecture. Six political prisoners have been held there, but
none are believed to be serving sentences there now.
Other Laojiao Where Tibetans are Held
Xinhua Laojiao is situated in Mianyang municipality, 220km north of
Chengdu, in northern Sichuan. The work done at Xinhua is mainly construction
work. In October 1999, several protests were held against the arrest
of a respected Buddhist teacher, Sonam Phuntsog, in Kardze county town,
in Kardze TAP. Following these demonstrations twelve Tibetans are known
to have been arrested and sent to Xinhua Laojiao.
At Xinhua, two Tibetans died last year. They collapsed while
being forced to work in the hot summer weather last year.
They were not given water or medical treatment and died shortly
afterwards. One of those who died has been identified as
Tsering Wangdrak, who was married with two young children.
He was reportedly beaten unconsciousness at least once while
he was being detained at Kardze county PSB Detention Center,
and continued to be beaten at Xinhua.
Public Security Bureau
Gutsa PSB Detention Centre
This is the Lhasa's prefectural PSB Detention Center, and is situated
a few kilometers east of Lhasa City center. In the period since 1987,
more political prisoners have been detained at Gutsa than anywhere
else. Most of the political prisoners sentenced to Drapchi undergo
interrogation at Gutsa, and many more are detained for a while and
then released without charge.
Prison officers at Gutsa are renowned for the barbaric measures
they use while interrogating prisoners: beatings are standard
and electric prods are often used. According to Gyaltsen
Choetso: 'When I was first taken to Gutsa, they stripped
me naked and used electric prods and beat me all over my
bodyc There were around sixty or seventy prison guards who
tortured prisoners and beat us with iron rods and wooden
At least four people have died as a direct result of abuse
Sitru PSB Detention Centre
One of the Sangyib family of prisons, Sitru is situated to the north
of Lhasa Prison. Many of those held at Sitru have been suspected of having
had contact with 'foreigners', especially Tibetans living in exile, or
have been abroad themselves, and have been accused of trying to send
human rights information out of the country. Over 110 political prisoners
have been detained at Sitru.
Shigatse (Nyari) PSB Detention
Shigatse Prefecture PSB Detention Center, colloquially known as Nyari,
is where Tibetans who are caught trying to cross the Tibet-Nepal border
without proper documentation are generally held.
Other PSB Detention Centers
Many political prisoners have also been held at Lhoka and
Chamdo Prefectures' PSB Detention Centers. It is not clear
how many are currently being detained
at either of these sites.