I have been informed by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that, in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, the warden of the Tibet Autonomous Region Prison (also known as Drapchi Prison) has ordered the release on medical parole of the elderly prisoner Tanak Jigme Sangpo. Jigme Sangpo left the prison on Sunday afternoon, March 31 and took up residence with his niece in Lhasa.

In the event that the medical care required by Jigme Sangpo is not available in Lhasa, he can apply to receive medical treatment abroad, including the United States, and the Chinese Government will give sympathetic consideration to his application.

Jigme Sangpo was born in 1926 in Qushui County, TAR, and before his detention he was an elementary school teacher in Lhasa. In September 1983, he was detained and subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement by the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court. His sentence was subsequently extended by five years in 1988 and by eight years in 1991 by the Lhasa Intermediate People’s Court for committing the crime of counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement while in prison. After his last sentence extension, his sentence was set to expire on September 3, 2011.

According to the Measures on Implementing Medical Parole for Prisoners jointly issued by the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China in 1990, a prisoner can be released on medical parole if “he or she is old, has multiple illnesses and has lost the ability to cause harm to society.” Several years ago, the prison authorities exempted Jigme Sangpo from physical labor on account of his age. Aside from meeting the age test, Jigme Sangpo presently suffers from illnesses associated with old age, none of which is life threatening. For humanitarian reasons, the judicial authorities ordered that Jigme Sangpo be released on medical parole.

Jigme Sangpo is the oldest and longest-serving prisoner known to be serving a sentence for the crime of counterrevolution. Since October 1, 1997, when the crime of counterrevolution was removed from the criminal code and replaced with the crime of endangering state security, the number of prisoners serving sentences for counterrevolution has steadily declined, from approximately 1,900 at the end of 1997 to 1,300 at the end of 1999. According to information obtained on my last trip to China, I estimate that there are between 600 and 700 counterrevolutionaries still in prison. The majority of counterrevolutionaries released in recent years have been let out of prison prior to the conclusion of their sentences. Jigme Sangpo is the most recent early release.

The Dui Hua Foundation
San Francisco, California
April 3, 2002