Formerly longest-serving political prisoner in Chinese ruled Tibet dead at 91

Tagna Jigme Sangpo

(, Oct18’20) – Tagna Jigme Sangpo, who was for long the longest serving political prisoner in Chinese ruled Tibet, has passed away on Oct 17 morning in Turbenthal, Switzerland, aged 91.

He was a school teacher in Tibet’s capital Lhasa when the Chinese arrested him in 1960 after he critciized them for their repressive rule in his occupied homeland. He was convicted for “corrupting the minds of children with reactionary ideas”.

Tagna Jigme Sangpo never stopped his protests and it saw the Chinese authorities keeping on convicting him for more and more alleged offences to thereby keep increasing his jail sentences, including during the brief period he was released from jail and transferred to a labour camp in 1979.

He was further convicted for ‘counter-revolutionary’ propaganda in 1970, for ‘spreading and inciting counter revolutionary propaganda’ in 1983, for again ‘spreading and inciting counter-revolutionary propaganda’ in 1988, and after he shouted “Free Tibet” in English during a visit to his prison complex in Lhasa by a Swiss government delegation in 1991.

His prison sentences totaled 41 years, rendering him eligible for release on Sep 3, 2011, if he stopped carrying out more protests in the meanwhile.

However, following persistent pressure from governments and human rights groups, China released him on medical parole and sent him abroad in Mar 2002, aged 76 years old.

John Kamm, director of US-based Dui Hua Foundation, was involved in negotiations for his release. Following his release, Sangpo was authorized to go to Washington on Jul 13, 2002. Later in Aug 2002 he settled in Switzerland as a political refugee.

His autobiography was published by the Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet, a Dharamsala-based association of former political prisoners in Tibet, on Jan 24, 2014.


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