Defiant Tibetan nuns tell story of imprisonment

Violent suppression of political protest continues, two say

Oregonians have grown accustomed to seeing 'Free Tibet!' stickers that call out from car bumpers and the occasional shop window. But they may be less aware of the harrowing events that motivate the declaration.

The Chinese marched into Tibet in 1950 and assumed control the following year, later banning religious practices and destroying more than 4,000 monasteries.

Though the ban was lifted in 1976, much has remained the same.

Portlanders can hear a firsthand account of events in Tibet on Thursday, May 16, when Tibetan Buddhist nuns Chuye Kunsang and Passang Lhamo tell the story of their arrests and incarceration in the infamous Drapchi Prison.

Portland is one of the few West Coast stops for Kunsang, 28, and Lhamo, 27. The nuns are speaking to raise awareness of the human rights

situation in Tibet, the poor conditions in Drapchi and the fate of Tibetans who have remained in their homeland.

Organizers with Amnesty International, one of the lecture's sponsors, say Kunsang and Lhamo were arrested and charged with 'endangering state security' for participating in protests in Tibet's capital city, Lhasa, in the mid-1990s.

Lhamo was 19 when she was arrested in 1994, and Kunsang, arrested in 1995, was 21. Both were tried and convicted without representation.

They and the other political prisoners detained at Drapchi were forced to perform strenuous physical labor; they endured beatings, torture and solitary confinement.

Lhamo described one particularly grueling form of 'exercise' to Amnesty International:

'The military exercises began with daily sessions of standing in the direct sunlight,' she said. 'Sometimes the guards would put books or cups of water on our heads to make sure that we were not moving. When the book fell or when some water spilled, then you would be beaten.'

Kunsang and Lhamo were released from Drapchi in 1999 and told that if they spoke about what happened there, they'd be arrested again.

Barred from returning to their Tibetan nunneries, unable to find work and fearful of future arrests, Kunsang and Lhamo told Amnesty International, that they left Tibet to live freely and tell their story.