Ngawang Phulchung (b. 1965), a monk belonging to Drepung Monastery, was detained in 1989 and continues to serve a 19-year sentence at Drapchi prison for organizing a “counter-revolutionary clique”.
This so-called ‘clique’ has been dubbed the “Group of Ten” and includes 10 Drepung monks who joined forces after being released from an initial detention following pro-independence protests in 1987. All 10 members of the group were arrested in 1989. Charged with “undermining national security” the group received sentencings in a forced public gathering (which included 1500 Tibetans) on November 30th, 1989. Additionally, the public sentencing was broadcast on television, assuring wide dissemination of the message voiced by Chinese authorities: “Let the sentence of Ngawang Phulchung serve as a stern warning for separatists, both at home and abroad, that those who split the motherland will come to no good end.”
The Drepung monks’ ‘crimes’ included printing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Labeled the leader of the ‘clique’, Ngawang was charged with “spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda” and for “collecting intelligence and passing it on to the enemy”. For these he was sentenced to 19 years in prison and 5 years deprivation of political rights. Of the original 10 Tibetan monks arrested in 1989, 8 have been released and one, Kelsang Thutop, died in prison in 1996, likely the result of mistreatment and malnutrition. The crimes for which these men continue to suffer are limited to the peaceful exertion of what should be, an inherent right. They engaged in non-violent political activities and for these they have suffered excessive and unjust consequences.
Update November 2007: Ngawang Phulchung was released from Chushul Prison (Ch: Qushui Prison) around 21 October 2007.