Reported by Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Eugene Whong.
A Tibetan monk who ran afoul of Chinese authorities in 2017 for sharing messages from the exiled Dalai Lama has passed away, after spending the last few years in bad health from the torture he experienced while in custody as a political prisoner that year, RFA has learned.
Gendun Sherab is believed to have died on April 18, according to a Tibetan source who requested anonymity for legal reasons.
“[He] was arrested three years ago on the charge of sharing and disseminating politically sensitive documents on WeChat and social media,” the source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
The shared document was “a recognition letter from His Holiness the Dalai Lama regarding the reincarnation of [religious figure] Choedon Rinpoche from Sera Je Lhopa Khantsen,” he added.
The source said that Gendun Sherab had been placed on a Chinese government watchlist after being expelled from the Rabten Monastery in Sog county (in Chinese Suǒ) as a suspect for his controversial political views.
“While in custody his captors severely tortured him and he was not even allowed to seek medical treatment from hospitals afterward,” the source said.
“The authorities held him in a detention center in Lhasa for three months, during which they beat him severely. The torture was so bad that he could not even move his body and was unable to speak,” the source added.
The monk was released by the authorities after suffering life-threatening injuries, according to the source.
“They only let him go because it was pretty clear he was about to die,” said the source.
“But since they deprived him of all his political rights, effectively blacklisting him, he was unable to be admitted into any hospitals to seek care. So instead he left Lhasa quickly and secretly sought treatment through traditional Tibetan medicine in his home,” the source said.
But the traditional treatments did not help much, according to the source, so Gendun Sherab lived about two more years with the injuries he sustained from torture, until his death at age 50 at his home in Barkal village in Sog county’s Rongpo township. His father’s name was Gyaljig.
A formerly independent nation, Tibet was taken over and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, following which Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India.
Chinese authorities now maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial killings.