Times of India

‘Tibetan Nun Recounts Horrors of Chinese Torture’
by Dilnaz Boga
(Times of India. March 17, 2002)

'China's record in Tibet. More than a million killed. More than 6000 monasteries destroyed. Thousands in prison. Hundreds still missing,' states the poster at the photo exhibition 'The Forbidden Land'. The exhibition was organised by the Friends of Tibet (INDIA) on March 10 to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. As part of the commemoration, 11 Tibetan cyclists, including three women, rode all the way from Kolkota to Kanyakumari. The Free Tibet and World Peace Cycle Rally ended in Mumbai, 68 days after it was flagged off.

One of the three women cyclists was 31-year old Passang, a Buddhist nun. She looks like any other nun with her arms folded and head bowed, but she has a different tale to tell. Passang is a Chinese prison camp survivor who has served three years in political prison. Her offence: participation in a vocal demonstration against the atrocities committed by the Chinese against the Tibetans in their own land. Recounting the horrors of the camp, Passang says, 'I was imprisoned in 1989 because I had participated in a demonstration against the Chinese, along with 20 other nuns. Nine of us were captured and severely beaten. At the camp, we were lined up, slapped and kicked mercilessly. Electric shocks were administered to me until I lost consciousness. I was interrogated for days together. For days, they tortured me. They wanted to know who I worked for, and they were rebelling against them. Finally, they stopped asking me questions. I was in Lhasa camp for three years.'

Things would not get better for Passang for a long time. 'I was placed in solitary confinement for a month,' she says. 'I was then moved to labour camp.' Here, she, along with other prisoners was forced to work in inhuman conditions. 'We were made to collect human excreta for manure in the fields. The food was rotten, even the animals would not touch it. As a result, many fell ill and since there was no treatment available, died of many kinds of diseases.'

After serving her term, she was released. 'All wanted to do see the Dalai Lama. So I escaped to India.' Passang, with 12 others, travelled for over a month, on foot, on treacherous terrain to arrive in Dharamsala. After her arrival in India, she made up her mind to study her religion. 'I wanted to be free to practice my own religion openly,' she says. When asked about how she felt towards Chinese after her experience, she says, 'since I am a Buddhist nun, I have to carefully assess my thoughts and feelings. I can't be angry with any individual. In fact, my first reaction was anger towards the political system in China. That is our enemy.'

According to other cyclists, the women in the team were stronger than most of them. 'The nun was better than us. You should've seen her pedalling hard, on steep hills.' says a fellow Tibetan cyclist. Adds Druk Tsering, the team leader, a teacher from Dharamsala: 'We had our morning rituals. Every morning we used to leave at 7am. Before starting off, we would observe a minute of silence for all the Tibetan martyrs. Then we'd sing our national anthem. After cycling for 70 to 80 km, we'd make it a point to spend a night near a school, so that we could come in contact with students order to spread the message about world peace and what is being done to Tibet.'