Reuters: Escape to Gansu

By Sui-Lee Wee and Stephanie Nebehay

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series titled ‘The Long Arm of China.’ Click here to read another report from this series.

Golog Jigme says his troubles started after he made a documentary with a Tibetan filmmaker exploring how Tibetans felt about the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The footage was smuggled out to Switzerland, where it was made into a film called “Leaving Fear Behind.” Soon after the Olympics, the Tibetan monk was arrested by Chinese authorities on charges of divulging state secrets and inciting separatism, he said.

Dying for Tibet: A woman throws a white scarf over Tibetan

Buddhist nun Palden Choetso as she burns on a street in Daofu

in Sichuan Province, China, in November 2011. A wave of
self-immolations by Tibetan protesters has shaken China.
Reuters/Students For A Free Tibet via Reuters TV

On March 16, in the building of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, he described in detail how Chinese security officials beat him severely many times, breaking his ribs and dislocating his knee joints. His voice rising, he spoke about how he was chained to a “tiger chair” – a chair that kept his hands and feet shackled – for 10 hours when he was detained the first time.

He showed a Reuters reporter indents on his wrists, which he said were scars left from being chained to the “tiger chair.” Reuters was not able to independently verify Golog Jigme’s account of his treatment.

Released after seven months, he was detained again in 2009 for four months, he said. In September 2012, he was arrested again and accused of instigating a wave of self-immolation protests and revealing state secrets. Since 2011, 142 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against China’s policies in Tibet, according to the International Campaign for Tibet.

While in custody, Golog Jigme said police officers told him they would transfer him to a military hospital to receive injections, even though he was not ill. The monk said he believed they intended to kill him, so he decided to escape. On September 30, 2012, he was going to the bathroom when he found a pin on the ground, he said.

Tibetan plea: Members of the Students for a Free Tibet
organization display a banner in front of the European
headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva in October 2013.
Reuters/Denis Balibouse

He used the pin to open his leg cuffs, fled the detention centre and hid in the mountains of Gansu province for two months. From the mountains, Golog Jigme said he first headed to the western province of Qinghai and then to exile in India, before arriving in Zurich in January this year. The monk said he did not want to divulge all the details of his escape route.

The foreign ministry in Beijing and the governments of Gansu and Linxia – the city where Golog Jigme was detained – did not respond to questions from Reuters.

While hiding in the mountains after his jailbreak, Golog Jigme heard that he had been charged with murder. Chinese authorities are charging some Tibetans with murder if they are accused of inciting self-immolations, according to a document issued jointly by China’s top court, prosecutor’s office and public security authorities.

The accusation was baseless, the monk told the Geneva audience. He considered setting himself on fire in front of a police station, he said, “as a protest and to prove my innocence.”


The Long Arm of China

By Sui-Lee Wee and Stephanie Nebehay

Photo editing: Thomas White

Design: Catherine Tai

Video: Eve Johnson

Editing: Peter Hirschberg and David Lague

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