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.
PS owing to lack of space in the letter section, I couldn’t add the name of his biography in the Tibetan language. Those who are interested to read it in Tibetan language, it’s called: ཆབ་སྲིད་བཙོན་ཟུར་སྟག་སྣ་འཇིགས་མེད་བཟང་པོའི་མི་ཚེའི་མྱོང་ཚོར།
I am saddened that my good friend Jigme La has passed away. He was a great fighter for Tibet’s independence as Hor Bumga, one of his friends puts it: “He is very principled and courageous, a real fighter who is willing to die for Tibet’s independence”.
He was imprisoned with criminals, endured unimaginable torture, solitary confinement, starvation, sleep deprivation and forced to witness execution of fellow prisoners. He became one of the most intransigent prisoner of all and continued to protest against the རྒྱ་དམར་བཙན་འཛུལ་བ་ (his word) the red invader.
During his solitary confinement after calling for Tibetan independence from within the prison walls, he was kept in a two meter diameter dungeon without anything to wear in the cold of Tibet. He was chained and beaten mercilessly but it never broke his indomitable spirit.
However, even though it didn’t show outwardly, I believe the prolonged incarceration, torture and beatings had impacted his mental health. He had hallucinations and he seemed to be extremely suspicious of everything. He would speak with his hand cupping his mouth even in his room.
This showed that he was still living with the fear he had endured in those prisons. Future generations of Tibetans must read his story, “SWIRLING RED DUST” and work for the complete independence of Tibet to honour the memory of Tibetan Heroes like Takna Jigme Sangpo.
We must realize there is no future for Tibet under communist China. In Taiwan, not only the DPP but even the Kuomintang Party which once claimed whole of China and dreamt of uniting with China has discarded that idea and now talks of Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
We Tibetans have our historical entitlement and incontrovertible evidence to claim ownership of Tibet which belongs to…
When high Lama leaves this world their body lie in highly decorated Zimchung and proclaims great reincarnated and thousands pay respect to get blessings but when Tibetan freedom fighter passed away it goes unnotice in Dharamshala.
Real Tibetan hero. He was easily recognizable with his Tibetan hat & outfit. Once in an important religious gathering, I ran toward toward him amidst crowds in the hall to say hello and shake his hands and took a precious snap with him. I am glad he lived up to 91 years old to enjoy his freedom in beautiful of places, Switzerland. Every Tibetan must pray for his departed soul and swift reborn as a Tibetan in a good family.