Statement on the Release of Ngawang Sangdrol

According to information received from authoritative sources in the Chinese government, the Tibetan nun Ngawang Sangdrol was released on good behavior parole from Tibet Autonomous Region Prison Number One today. After being read the decision of the court granting her parole, Ngawang Sangdrol was reunited with her family. Her sentence was due to expire on November 3, 2011; she was paroled nine years before the completion of her sentence.

Ngawang Sangdrol, a resident of Lhasa and a nun at the Garu Nunnery north of the city, was born in 1977. She was convicted of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement in 1992, making her one of the youngest people ever convicted of this crime in China. She is believed to be China’s longest serving female prisoner convicted of counterrevolution, and her release from prison comes after many years of campaigning by the international human rights community, and by world leaders including President George W. Bush of the United States and President Jacques Chirac of France.

During the visit of John Kamm, Executive Director of The Dui Hua Foundation, to Beijing from October 8 to October 11, 2002, the following information on Ngawang Sangdrol’s sentencing and parole was developed:

Ngawang Sangdrol was sentenced to three years in prison, with three years subsequent deprivation of political rights, in November 1992 by the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court for the crime of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement. Subsequently, on September 22, 1993, June 21, 1996, and May 4, 1998, Ngawang Sangdrol’s sentence was extended by six years, eight years and six years respectively for committing counterrevolutionary crimes in prison. At the conclusion of the last trial that resulted in an extension, the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court, combining the new sentence with the sentence Ngawang Sangdrol was already serving, set a release date of May 3, 2013.

On October 12, 2001, the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court ordered an 18-month reduction in sentence for Ngawang Sangdrol, on account of her “showing genuine repentance and willingness to reform.” Her new release date was set at November 3, 2011. It was said that Ngawang Sangdrol had been exempted from hard labor, and been put to work doing “light work suitable for female inmates, e.g. knitting and weaving.”

Under China’s regulations governing parole, sentence reductions for good behavior should take place no more than once every two years, and prisoners become eligible for parole only after serving one-half of their sentences. However, in light of Ngawang Sangdrol’s good behavior and recognizing that she entered prison before the age of 18, the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court decided, in accordance with the principle of light or reduced sentences for individuals who enter prison as juveniles, to approve Ngawang Sangdrol’s immediate release from prison on parole. Because of the special circumstances surrounding this parole, the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court sought and received ratification for its decision from the Tibet Autonomous Region Higher People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China.

Ngawang Sangdrol’s parole follows the early release from prison of several other Tibetan prisoners this year, including Ngawang Choephel in January, Tanka Jigme Sangpo in March, Ngawang Choekyi in April and Ngawang Choezom in June. Of the 18 Tibetan prisoners raised by the State Department during the dialogue on human rights held in Washington one year ago, nine have been released from prison during the past 12 months, three at the end of their terms, and six prior to the completion of their sentences.

The Dui Hua Foundation expresses its appreciation to the judicial departments of the People’s Republic of China for the release from prison on parole of Ngawang Sangdrol. In its work on this matter, the foundation has been greatly assisted by the State Department and by the American Embassy in China, in particular by Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner and the US Ambassador Clark Randt, Jr., as well as by the governments of China’s other dialogue partners, many of whom have shown great concern for this young woman.

We recognize in particular the roles played in Ngawang Sangdrol’s release by Members of the US Congress, including the leaders of the House of Representatives Human Rights Caucus (Congressman Frank Wolf and Congressman Tom Lantos) and the Congressional Executive Commission on China (Senator Max Baucus and Congressman Doug Berueter), as well as by individual members including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Orrin Hatch, Senator Sam Brownback, Congressman James P. McGovern, Congressman Michael E. Capuano, and Congressman Joseph Pitts, to name but a few of the members who have written letters to the Chinese government on Ngawang Sangdrol’s behalf. Members of human rights groups around the world have worked tirelessly on Ngawang Sangdrol’s behalf for many years, and will take comfort and pride in this development.

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The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
October 17, 2002