On June 14, Dui Hua asked China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an update on the case of Nyima Choedron (尼玛曲珍), the last known female political prisoner in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Two days later, in an email response from Beijing, Dui Hua was given confirmation that Nyima Choedron had been released from the TAR Prison (also known as Drapchi Prison) on February 26, 2006 after commuting the remaining one year left on her sentence for “splittism.”
Nyima Choedron and husband Jigme Tenzin (晋美旦增), founders of the Gyatso Children’s Home in Lhasa, were convicted in September 2000 on “splittism” charges for having alleged links to an anti-Chinese protest carried out by another Tibetan during the national minority games held in the TAR in 1999. Nyima Choedron was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court, while Jigme Tenzin received a life sentence. The Gyatso Children’s Home was closed by the authorities as an illegal business and the children dispersed.
The case of Nyima Choedron and Jigme Tenzin has been raised repeatedly with Chinese officials by Dui Hua and through the human rights dialogues held by several European governments and the United States. After an initial period during which little information was revealed about the case, details slowly began to emerge and become known outside of China. Very soon, Dui Hua was able to start reporting news of sentence reductions.
Nyima Choedron received her first sentence reduction in September 2002 and had an additional year cut from her original sentence in 2004. Her most recent sentence reduction and release came on the eve of Dui Hua’s announcement that Jigme Tenzin’s life sentence had been commuted to a 19-year fixed-term imprisonment in July 2003 and that he had received a further one-year reduction in November 2005. Jigme Tenzin’s sentence is now due to expire on July 30, 2021.
A source close to the family has confirmed that Nyima Choedron has been released and that she is with her children and has visited Jigme Tenzin at the TAR’s Chushur Prison, where he is currently serving his sentence.
In the weeks preceding the February 28 announcement of Jigme Tenzin’s sentence reduction, Dui Hua reminded Chinese authorities of Nyima Choedron’s good behavior and her seven-year-old daughter, born just before her arrest, in urging consideration of a final one-year reduction and release. We are gladdened to see this act of clemency by TAR officials on behalf of Nyima Choedron and hope that further reductions to Jigme Tenzin’s sentence will be forthcoming as well. Dui Hua also notes the importance of family visits to Jigme Tenzin’s well-being while in prison and hopes that TAR prison officials will facilitate visits by Nyima Choedron and the couple’s children to the fullest extent possible.
The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
June 28, 2006