PROFILES IN COURAGE: DAY 7 – MARCH 4TH

Wangdu
Age: 41

AIDS activist/NGO Worker; Political Prisoner

wangdue01Wangdu is a former Project Officer for an HIV/AIDS program in Lhasa run by the Australian Burnet Institute that developed resources to educate Tibetans about HIV. He is originally from Dechen Township, Taktse County, around 25 kilometers east of Lhasa. Wangdu is fluent in Chinese and, a former Jokhang monk, used to lead tours of the Jokhang.

He was first detained on March 8, 1989, the day martial law took effect in Lhasa after three days of protest. His three-year sentence to ‘reform through labor’ was extended to eight years’ imprisonment after he and 10 other political prisoners signed a petition stating that the 1951 17-Point Agreement was forced on an independent Tibet.

Following his release in 1995, Wangdue began working to create HIV/AIDS awareness, first in Lhasa’s brothels and nightclubs but gradually expanding to schools and government offices in neighbouring counties and towns. His efforts helped raise critical awareness about this fast spreading epidemic in Tibetan communities.

Lobsang WangyalWangdu was detained again on March 14, 2008, the day protests and rioting erupted in Lhasa after four days of peaceful demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the March 10, 1959 Uprising. He was later charged with “espionage” by the Lhasa City Intermediate People’s Court and sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly passing on information about the situation in Tibet to the outside world. Six other Tibetans were given long sentences in connection to the case.

An article in the Lhasa Evening News on November 8 reported the sentencing of seven Tibetans including Wangdu and Migmar Dhondup, who also worked for an NGO, is known as a passionate conservationist and was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “espionage”. Both Migmar Dhondup and Wangdu were accused of collecting “intelligence concerning the security and interests of the state and provid[ing] it to the Dalai clique…prior to and following the ‘March 14’ incident” (International Campaign for Tibet).

A former political prisoner who shared a cell in Drapchi prison and carried out labor with Wangdu in the prison’s greenhouses during his first sentence told ICT:

“During that time in prison [the early 1990s] I became very close to [Wangdu] and he started learning English with me from [another prisoner]. He is such an open-minded, talented, easy-going guy and got on really well with other prisoners while he was in Drapchi. He is very good at Tibetan literature and painting and Chinese language as well. He used to worry about the new generation in Tibet because they are losing their culture and their language, and he often criticized people for not being interested in anything other than money. The last time I saw him, when we said goodbye to each other, I was very sad.”

Wangdu devoted his life to promoting and educating Tibetan communities. His imprisonment shows the lengths to which the Chinese government will go to silence those who advocate for the Tibetan people’s health and well being. We honor his work and pledge to work for his release.

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