On this 51st anniversary (10th March 2010) of the Lhasa uprising in Tibet, I’d like to talk about one of the bravest people I’ve ever met, a Tibetan monk called Palden Gyatso.
Palden Gyatso was born in 1931 in a place called Panam, the Gyantse District of Tibet, and he was ordained at the age of ten. During the 1959 uprising he led a hundred-man force against the Chinese. It was made up of monks from Drepung monastery but they never fought. He was first arrested in 1959 and spent the next thirty-three years in prisons and labour camps, being severely tortured and brutally punished for refusing to denounce the Dalai Lama and for refusing to say that Tibet was really China.
He was arrested and re-arrested many times during those thirty-three years because the authorities have to let you go once you have served your sentence, but you can hardly move before they arrest you again for a further ‘crime’. Shortly before Palden Gyatso’s release, therefore, in 1992 he arranged for Tibetan friends to bribe prison guards into selling some torture implements, and, as soon as he could, he headed for the Nepalese border disguised in Chinese clothing. He knew the police were looking for him, but he made it to India.
Now he is a free man and is doing his best to persuade the free world to do something for the Tibetan people. In 1995 he came to visit us in Totnes, South Devon to give a talk and to display those terrible instruments of torture. On the morning of that talk, we spoke with him and his interpreter, Ugyan Norbu, at Sharpham House, on the 2 March 1995.
Read the full interview here (PDF 9 pages).
Read more about Palden Gyatso in his book Fire Under the Snow: True Story of a Tibetan Monk (Amazon) Palden Gyatso and Tsering Shakya.