By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 18 October 2020
Takna Jigme Sangpo, who served the longest time in Chinese prison of any Tibetan, passed away on Saturday at his home in Switzerland at the age of 91, according to sources.
Born in 1926, Sangpo was a Tibetan schoolteacher and political activist in Tibet under Chinese rule. He was incarcerated in Chinese prisons in Lhasa, Tibet, as a political prisoner for a total of 37 years for his non-violent protests against the Chinese atrocities in Tibet.
Chinese authorities charged him for “corrupting the minds of children with reactionary ideas”, and he was first sentenced to three years of “re-education through labour” in 1965.
He was then given a further 10-year sentence for “spreading and inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda” in 1970, an additional 15 years for putting up anti-China posters at Jokhang temple in Lhasa in 1983, and five years for shouting “reactionary slogans” while in prison in 1988.
In 1991, he was beaten, held in solitary confinement for six weeks, and sentenced to an additional eight years for shouting “Free Tibet” during a visit to Drapchi prison by the Swiss ambassador to China.
He was released from prison on medical parole in 2002 at the age of 76, after having served a total of 37 years in prison, becoming the one of the most prominent Tibetan freedom fighters.
John Kamm, the Director of the Dui Hua Foundation, is said to have negotiated with the Chinese authorities to secure Sangpo’s release, and as well the approval for him to go to the US. In August 2002, he was granted political asylum in Switzerland, and had been living there since in a village near Zurich.
The Gu Chu Sum Movement of Tibet, an ex-political prisoners organisation in McLeod Ganj, published Sangpo’s biography in 2014.