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Phuntsog Nyidron

By far the largest group of female political prisoners incarcerated by the Chinese government is in the Tibet Autonomous Region, where women make up about one third of the political prisoner population of Tibet.  Almost all of them are nuns.

On October 11, 1989, Tibetans heard that their exiled spiritual and temporal leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, had been awarded the Nobel Peace prize.  Three days later six nuns staged a peaceful demonstration in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to mark the occasion, chanting independence slogans as they marched in procession.  Within minutes they were arrested by the police and subsequently interrogated, tortured, tried, and imprisoned.

One of those arrested was a young nun named Phuntsog Nyidron [Pingzuonizheng in Chinese].  Apparently the Chinese authorities considered her the ringleader as they gave her the harshest sentence, 9 years in the notorious Drapchi Prison.  On October 8, 1993, her sentence was increased to 17 years.  The reason?  Using a tape recorder smuggled into the prison, she and 13 other nuns recorded pro-independence songs they had composed in prison.  The tape was circulated secretly in Tibet and is now available on CD in the West from the Free Tibet Campaign (www.freetibet.org) in England.

The songs paint a chilling picture of life in prison:

“The food does not sustain body or soul
Beatings impossible to forget
This suffering inflicted upon us
May no others suffer like this.”

But they also display their unbroken spirit, as one sings:

“All of you outside who have done all you can for us in prison, we are deeply grateful to you and we will never forget you.”

In 1995 Phuntsog Nyidron won the annual Reebok Human Rights Award for young people.  In Reebok’s words, “She is a symbol of freedom of expression, an extraordinary woman who continues to non-violently advance the cause of human rights at the cost of her own personal freedom and safety.”

Phuntsog Nyidron was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International Group 30 in San Francisco. She was released on Febuary 26, 2004 and arrived in the United States for medical treatment on March 15, 2006.

Statement by Dui Hua Foundation on Phuntsog Nyidron's arrival in the United States.