Dawa Gyaltsen (born circa 1960) is currently serving an 18 year prison term for organizing “splittist activities” in the province of Nagchu in 1995.
Born and raised in Nagchu county, Dawa Gyaltsen was inspired to protest Chinese re-education policies that were implemented in the local Nagchu Shabten Monastery. Dawa’s younger brother, Tenzin Dorje, is a monk at the monastery where “patriotic education” classes were instituted in 1994. Much of this propagandist “education” involved condemning separatist activities and monks were often forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to destroy religious objects and texts.
In April 1995 Dawa and other supporters secretly put up posters marked with ‘Free Tibet’ and other pro-independence logos. They also circulated information complied by Dawa on Tibet’s history as a free nation. As a result of this action, the local Public Security Bureau launched an investigation. In November of that year Dawa and a fellow activist fled to Lhasa, but despite their efforts to evade Chinese authorities, they were captured. Dawa and his brother were both charged as ‘prime activists’ and were given a combined sentence of 31 years. In January 1997 the pair were transferred to Drapchi Prison. Dawa’s 18 year sentence was later reduced, first by 16 months in 2002 and then by an additional 9 months in 2004.
Despite these minimal reductions in sentence, Dawa continues to languish in Chinese prisons. In an official statement given by Tezin Tsundue, a fellow detainee at Situ Detention Center, in June 2006 in London, England, Dawa is receiving inhuman treatment and is suffering ill-health as a result of the torture he is enduring as a prisoner of the Chinese.
Tenzin Tsundue, a former political prisoner was, in the cell next to Dawa Gyaltsen’s at Sitru Detention Centre in 1997. He gave a testimony in London in June 2006 where he talked extensively about Dawa Gyaltsen.
“Dawa Gyaltsen was usually treated badly by the jail authorities, sometimes they deprived him of food, often depriving him of the small 15 minute fresh air break in the morning called fang-fung, which is Chinese for fresh air. For prisoners who spent all their days and nights in one cold locked room, with a plastic bucket for a toilet, uncertain of their future life, with no space for communication or personal contact, this 15 minute break to see the open sky meant so much.
There were clear scars of torture- a ring of white scar tissue ran around his wrists. He told me that when he was first arrested he was handcuffed and thrown into a dark room without food for ten days. To keep him alive, the jailers would splash water on him once a day. The handcuffs tightened around his wrists. They ate into his flesh, forming sores, and puss. After 10 days when they unlocked the shackles, the metal rings ripped of skin from his wrist. He said he was not given medical attention and it took many months for the sores to heal. In the cold prison cell at Sitru, the wounds had healed, but the marks remained….” (quote from Free Tibet, read more).