‘Anecdotal Evidence’ of Sexual Abuse of Tibetan Nuns While in Chinese Police Custody

Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns attend a sit-in solidarity rally against the Chinese Communist Party’s rule on Tibet, in the Indian capital city of New Delhi on Feb. 2, 2013. (Raveendran/AFP via Getty Images)
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By Jocelyn Neo

The Chinese regime’s sexual abuse of Uyghurs has been widely reported in recent years as more victims of this Muslim minority have stepped forward to expose the ongoing persecution in the Xinjiang region. The mass rape and torture of female Falun Gong practitioners have been extensively reported by Minghui.org in the last two decades.

Tibetan nuns also have been subjected to sexual torture at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but their stories are still lesser known. In 2018, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) published a firsthand account of a monk witnessing nuns being sexually abused by the communist officials in the re-education center in Sog County, Nagchu prefecture, Tibet region.

Tenzin Sangmo, a researcher with the TCHRD, told The Epoch Times in an email that their 25 years of research have provided them with “anecdotal evidence of sexual abuse” suffered by Tibetan women and nuns.

“This eyewitness account by the monk was obtained with great difficulty,” he said. “It is understood that the monk was detained in one of the many extra-legal political re-education centers with other monks and nuns.”

Sangmo added that gathering such information from inside Tibet has become “increasingly difficult” after 2008, and even more so from 2016 to 2017 because of the “massive ramping up of censorship and surveillance.”

“Contacting those inside Tibet is an exercise ridden with unbounded risk,” he added.

Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns participate in a sit-in solidarity rally against the Chinese Communist Party’s rule on Tibet, in the Indian capital city of New Delhi on Oct. 18, 2011. (Raveendran/AFP via Getty Images)

Sangmo said that the mass surveillance and censorship (pdf) methods like the “Grid Management” and “Double-Linked Household” systems threaten Chinese people to report on and betray one another. To add to the difficulty, the CCP’s tool of “collective punishment” has forced Tibetans who were earlier willing to speak up to instead “practice self-censorship” to avoid endangering those around them.

The anonymous Tibetan monk, who was held in the political re-education center for four months, was studying in Qinghai Province. The communist officials forcibly took him back to his hometown in Sog County, and if he had refused, his family could have been arrested, according to a TCHRD report. He was then taken to a re-education center, where almost all detainees were monks or nuns.

Though an officer informed him that the center “is a school, not a prison,” the monk said in his personal account that he soon realized that place was nothing but a prison meant to brainwash and coerce Tibetan Buddhists.

The center’s “teaching” style reminded him of the Cultural Revolution where people were forced to constantly criticize themselves. The detainees were also tortured and beaten with electric batons until some of them fainted. Every one of them, regardless of age, had to participate in military drills. During one of the drills, the monk witnessed the harassment and abuse of nuns.

“Many nuns would lose consciousness during the [military] drills,” the monk wrote, according to the TCHRD report. “Sometimes officers would take unconscious nuns inside where I saw them fondle the nuns’ breasts and grope all over their body. … I have heard about some officers lying in the nuns’ bedroom pressing unconscious nuns underneath.”

Sexual abuse is not the only method used to “transform” the Tibetans nuns. The TCHRD’s 2016 Special Report on “Prisoners of Conscience in Tibet” detailed other torture methods like inflicting shocks with electric batons; deprivation of food, water, and sleep; pouring boiling water over prisoners; setting dogs onto prisoners; and branding with red-hot shovels, etc.

These methods are but a few of the over-100 routine torture methods employed by the Chinese communist regime to persecute prisoners of all faiths.

An illustration of one of the sexual torture methods employed by the CCP officials to coerce prisoners of conscience, especially female Falun Gong adherents, to renounce their faith. (Minghui.org)

Sangmo said thousands of monks and nuns have been evicted from renowned Tibetan academies like Larung Gar and Yarchen Gar in Kardze, Tibet region, and then rounded up for political re-education to “steer them away from spiritual pursuit as their path is deemed incompatible with the characteristics of a model Chinese citizen.”

Like other monks and nuns who were forced out of their monasteries, the anonymous monk detained at the Sog County re-education center couldn’t return to his monastery or continue with his monastic education after his release.

“He was forced to disrobe after his release from the political re-education center,” Sangmo said. “Most of the monks and nuns evicted from these two prominent Tibetan Buddhist academies are subjected to similar restrictions.”

Tibetan monks sitting on the hill and looking at Yarchen Gar Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Sichuan, China. (Phuong D. Nguyen/Shutterstock)

According to an International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) report, a Tibetan former nun, Tenzin, was raped by the Chinese armed police officers after she was arrested while trying to escape from Tibet in 2005. Tenzin, who was studying in India in a school run by the Tibetan government in exile, had gone back to Tibet to visit her ailing father. She eventually returned to India in early 2009 after enduring year-long detention and torture.

Tenzin recounted how the local authorities repeatedly visited her, asking her what she had been doing in India. “The Chinese authorities are increasingly suspicious of Tibetans who attend Tibetan government in exile-run schools and religious institutes, as they consider them to have been influenced by ideas of separatism,” she said, according to the ICT report.

Unable to “stay in peace,” Tenzin decided to leave home together with a group of Tibetans, including two children. However, five soldiers stopped her at a checkpoint and later took them to a military building where a Tibetan soldier asked if she is a nun, having seen her shaved head. When Tenzin said yes, the Tibetan soldier cursed at her and the rest of them hit her with batons and belts.

For the next few days, Tenzin’s arms and feet were cuffed to a wooden bed and she was locked in a room. One night, two prison guards came in and forced her to swallow some medicine, before raping her.

“I sensed something bad was going to happen, I screamed as loud as I could in the hope that someone would come to stop them. But all was in vain,” she said. “Later I fell unconscious. I don’t know if that was because of the medicine they gave me or out of fear. I could not feel anything, especially the lower part of my body.”

Back in 1988, the BBC broadcasted a documentary of 12 Tibetans in which a nun turned emotional as she recounted how she was sexually abused at a police station, according to a UCA News report. “They stepped on my face, tasered my chest, and kicked me,” the nun said. “Then they took off our clothes and three or four people raped us with a baton.”

Another nun confirmed that they were “constantly raped by seven or eight people” and “left naked” after the ordeal.

Sangmo told The Epoch Times that nuns are subjected to the “same level of torture” as others, and physical torture is “accompanied by psychological torture.” He confirmed that there is no sign of relaxation in restrictions or persecution faced by the Tibetan people, rather the repression has only worsened.

“It has worsened since 2008 and more so after the coming of Xi Jinping to power,” he said. “His consolidation of power and implementation of his vision of socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era has meant more repression of Tibetans.”

He added that the situation in Tibet cannot be assessed based on statistics alone because “there is no research environment.”

“Information trickles out of Tibet, and statistics need a sufficient pool of information to support it. Therefore, any change in statistics is not indicative of a change in the situation. Using statistics in cases like this could deny the complexity surrounding the issue,” Sangmo said.

Arshdeep Sarao contributed to this report.

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