Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Is it A Hotel or Is it A Temple?" by Woeser

The following blog post was originally written for Radio Free Asia by Woeser and published on her blog on August 22nd 2007. For High Peaks Pure Earth readers who are curious about Laurence J. Brahm, read about his books on China Tibet Information Center's website and more about him on China Today's website.

Following the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the House of Shambhala hotel has opened as befitting the times. It is situated in Lhasa’s old Barkhor district in the middle of a residential area, the area is mostly made up of new houses replacing old ones.

House of Shambhala is a kind of not big but very exquisite boutique hotel and inside, the construction imitates Tibetan courtyard-style architecture.

The hotel also emphasises “Tibetan culture” and it is apparent that the "Yarlu Tsangpo Hotel", which is like an upstart, can not be comparable to the House of Shambhala. The latter looks much more authentic, especially in the sense that much attention was put into details, as is the case of the splendid designs of Tibetan-style window frames, the carved stone images or carved scriptures which are placed on the walls, or pleasantly asymmetrical Tsatsas (miniature statues) etc. All this makes the House of Shambhala the most authentic Tibetan hotel.

However, the problem lies in the fact that its appearance highly resembles a temple. Hotels are not temples, just like hotels are neither Christian churches nor mosques. Everything in the world originally has its proper place, if there is a tendency insistently to make hotels look like temples then is this not a kind of ignorance and arbitrariness? At the House of Shambhala, I saw an old Tibetan Buddhist pilgrim mistake the place for a temple, entering whilst respectfully bowing her head, turning the tall prayer wheels at the door of the hotel with her hands, her mouth mumbling away but she quickly stopped to look around the courtyard in bewilderment, her face expressing confusion, not knowing what to do, as she turned around and ran away.

I still to this day remember the expression on her face, which is bewilderment as a result of one’s pious aspirations have not been settled but does not know where to place them.

House of Shambhala was opened by an American called Laurence J. Brahm (Chinese name: 龙安志, Long Anzhi), who is well-known in Lhasa now. He is not only a very successful western businessman in China, but also a writer who has written a dozen books about China. And what the Chinese government likes most about him is that he often writes for English publication articles in which the fundamentals are very similar to those of the People’s Daily. Recently, he nurtured a keen interest for Tibet, and wrote several books whose main topic is Tibetan culture. His documentaries have been used by the Chinese government as a propaganda tool, he shakes hands with government officials and was the first foreign disciple of the CCP’s Panchen Lama. It’s even said that his son recently became a tulku (reincarnated Lama) at a Tibetan monastery overseas.

Visiting his hotel, you would note that he uses the concept of Shambhala to build a new Tibet which has nothing to do with Tibet as it is known now. ‘Shambhala’ is originally an ideal world of Tibetan buddhism but he turns the concept into a hotel; therefore he intentionally has the hotel look like a temple in order to provide strangers with the feeling that they are staying in a ‘harmonious Tibet’, without suffering or risk. It does not matter much if this ‘harmonious Tibet’ only is an imitation or legend, however, books written by him are displayed in every room. In his books, he skilfully carries out misinterpretations about Tibet today which lead to spreading misconceptions. The aim is to ingratiate himself to the ruler of this piece of land. Tibet in fact has been turned into a symbol of consumerism; it is more a tool for him to earn more money. He is a true cultural imperialist. Tibet represents not only a money-making tool but also a garden and a stage on which to fulfil his imperialist interest.

I once saw Laurence J. Brahm at Lhasa’s Gendun Choephel Gallery at a lecture about art. There were painters, art lovers and foreigners studying Tibetan culture present. The little room was completely full. Amid the lecture, a foreigner wearing elegant clothes, sunglasses, and latching a big dog as white as his hair suddenly appeared and quickly disappeared after saying goodbye in a very fluent Beijing-accented Chinese. The entire process was carried out in a very theatrical, exaggerated and artificial way.

A hotel resembling a temple - House of Shambhala

Laurence J. Brahm
(in the centre, the silver-haired man wearing sunglasses)

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Letters to Norzin Wangmo by Jamyang Kyi

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated two blog posts by Jamyang Kyi regarding her friend Norzin Wangmo (Nor ‘dzin dbang mo). The first post was written on 26th June 2008, where Jamyang Kyi is wondering what has happened to her friend and where she voices her sadness of not knowing.

In the second post on 3rd November 2008 (http://www.tibetabc.cn/user1/jamyangkyi/archives/2008/2008113181128.html note that this post has since been removed, see picture above for how it looked), Jamyang Kyi learns that her friend has been sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Jamyang Kyi's post is interesting in many ways, it not only reveals names of Tibetan people who have been detained but she tells us that another Tibetan named Go Sherab Gyatso (sGo she rab rgya tsho) has gone missing, that his phone no longer works and also wonders what has happened to another blogger called Tsawa Da nyuk (Tsha ba mda’ smyug), who hasn’t posted since the troubles began.

What is most interesting is the human side of the story, here a woman is longing for news of her friends with apprehension and sadness. The way in which Jamyang Kyi is speaking to her friend in the blog is moving and we can sense the tragedy of the story, a bright and young child left behind and youth wasted in the darkness of a prison cell. The protests in Tibet destroyed the lives of so many bright people who were at the forefront of cultural activism in Tibet. It is apparent that Jamyang Kyi and Norzin Wangmo are close friends who share mutual interests in literature and writing. It appears that Norzin Wangmo is also a writer and whilst in detention her articles titled Games of Politics (chabs kyi rtse mo’i sko ra) was published in the magazine "Popular Arts" (Mang tshogs sgyu rtsal). In the second post, Jamyang Kyi posts additional information about Norzin Wangmo and the charges made against her.

According to Jamyang Kyi, Norzin Wangmo was charged with sending emails (dra thog) and making phone calls abroad. Norzin Wangmo is from Ngapa Trochu County (rNga ba Khru chu Dzong, Heishui 黑水县). She is thirty years old and worked at the Judicial Bureau of Trochu County (Khru chu Dzong khrim ‘dzin chu, 黑水县司法局).

Here we have translated Jamyang Kyi’s two blog posts from the original Tibetan.
For more background information on Jamyang Kyi please see the previous post on High Peaks Pure Earth called "They...".

*19th November 2008 update: Since posting the translations, High Peaks Pure Earth received the following photo of Norzin Wangmo:

"To Radiant Norzin Wangmo la" by Jamyang Kyi
26th June 2008

Dearest friend,

When I came out of that darkly lit cell, you certainly must have been taken to a similar house. I pray to the Three Jewels and wait for the word of your release. My hopes linger from day to day and it has been two months of waiting. Yet, as time passes, I haven’t heard a sound about you.

The feeling of longing fills me with nothing but sadness. Today, it is raining and the weather is filled with gloom as I look at the peak of greenish hills from the government office. Around this time last year, didn’t we go over those hills with our children to have a picnic? That day we talked and talked about future aspirations and dreams in our hearts. You said to me that you were happy that you had met me. As for me, I am even more elated to have met you. You are one of few women with dignity and self-respect that I have met in my life. To me, that is more precious than a diamond. I know you very well. From my own experience I can assume that in the last two months they have been endlessly tormenting you mentally and physically.

Dear friend, when I think about the mental suffering you might be going through, my heart is torn apart. The word is that you have been taken to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. Till now we have kept the news of your situation from your son. In truth, where can you be? Even though you are in my mind every single day, you haven’t come into my dreams even once.

My book on women that you diligently helped me to revise has finally been published. When the book arrived in Xining, that day was filled with sadness for me. You and Dorje Tsering, who helped me to revise the book, are now locked up separately in dark places. You phoned me a few times worrying about the delay in publication of my book. This is a memory that you left behind for me. Your article titled the Game of Politics has already been published in “Popular Arts” (Mang tshogs sgyu rtsal).

Go Sherab Gyatso (sGo she rab rgya tsho), the one you were enquiring about, was arrested a few months earlier. His phone has been cut off and we have no idea about his whereabouts. When people like you have disappeared so suddenly, one after another, I can do nothing but live helplessly and hope day by day. Tonight my heart is aching with sadness and the thoughts of all of you become stronger.

"Norzin Wangmo la..." by Jamyang Kyi
3rd November 2008

After 7 months of imprisonment and repeated torture inflicted on you, all this time I hoped that they might someday release you. And this wish that I cradled brought all forms and shapes of suffering to me. Last night I met with one of your colleagues and we talked about if there was any way to secure your release. I had my hopes high then.

But unfortunately today (November 3rd, 2008), around 12 noon, I heard that you are sentenced to 5 years. I also heard that after some time you will be moved to one of the internal prisons and for the next ten days, it seems that they will not let your relatives visit you. You are in your thirties, the prime of your life, and this is also an important stage in your son’s upbringing where your advice and guidance are crucial.

For the truth you, and many other heroes like you, had to separate from your parents, partners, and walk alone leaving your children in a destitute state. Five years is one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days. Forty three thousand eight hundred hours. How sad it is to spend the prime of one’s life within these dark walls of prison? Even though you can take pride in the sacrifice and courage you exhibited, you are also well aware that the reality behind this name and courage lies in the unspeakable ocean of suffering. These experiences can hinder your growth, love and dreams.

One thing that relieves my heart is when I heard that you were set and determined to face the challenges that lies ahead. The most difficult challenge must be the thought of separation from your bright son Dhondup Dorje (Don grub rdo rje). If the two of you consent, I have a genuine wish to raise Dhondup Dorje like my own son. Since you have the courage to go to prison for the sake of truth, likewise your son cannot be just an ordinary boy. I have always held and treasured Tibetans like you in the depth of my heart.

Tsawa Danyuk, (tsha ba mda’ smyug) the bright young man from Kham hasn’t participated in the blog for a long period of time. I have been cautious and worried these days thinking if anything has happened to him. If anyone knows anything, it is my hope that it will be brought to the attention of people.

I will consider today as an important day in my mind. Dear brave friend, Norzin Wangmo, you are close to my heart. I, truly, am helpless and I have only few tears to see you off.

An additional matter is that I would like to ask whether I should let your son Dhondup Dorje know about your imprisonment. Secondly, as I talked about before, I would like your son to study Tibetan well. And my ultimate hope is that there may not be any obstacles to your life and well being of your health.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

"They" - by Jamyang Kyi

Jamyang Kyi ('jam dbyangs skyid) was detained by the Public Security Bureau in Xining on 1st April 2008. She was accused of sending text messages to 17 of her friends, including Woeser, the Tibetan blogger based in Beijing. The Chinese secret services intercepted text messages between them and found that Jamyang Kyi had sent details of the unrest and the killing of Tibetans in Ngaba (Amdo). Jamyang Kyi was released with a huge fine. Since her release she has been posting accounts of her experiences during her incarceration on her blog. We have translated one of her posts which was originally written in Tibetan titled “They” (Kho tshos) as well as comments from readers.

Jamyang Kyi is one of the most well known figures that were detained in the aftermath of protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008. She was born in 1965 in Jador Radza County in Amdo (Qinghai Province). Jamyang worked for 22 years as a news presenter and journalist at the Tibetan language section of Qinghai Provincial Television Station. She was a familiar face amongst the people in Amdo. Since 1990s, Jamyang Kyi devoted more time to her true passion that is music. She became a popular singer and has produced a CD titled Prayer and two VCDs, Distant Lover, Karma and her latest VCD, Fortunate Events (photo below). Even during her incarceration one of the interrogators confessed to liking her music.

Jamyang Kyi other passion is writing. She has published two books, an anthology of poems and while in detention her book title "Mixture of Snow and Rain, Joy and Sorrow of Women", (za mo’i skyid sdug gangs ma char) was published (photo below). A lengthy review of the book in Tibetan by Trisem (Khri sems) can be found here. The book was published with a support of her friend Norzin Wangmo (Nor ‘dzin dbang mo), who was also arrested in April 2008. Last week Jamyang Kyi posted on her blog that Norzin Wangmo had been sentenced to five years imprisonment on 3rd November.

The book is the first feminist’s critique of Tibetan society and her writing is widely influenced by Western feminist writers. The book is filled with her observations of treatment of women in Tibetan society, where wives are treated no better than servants, who attend only to household chores. She questions why it is that while a monk enters a house, automatically a higher seat is offered but when a man enters a room even a nun has to give her seat for the man. She asks Tibetan women to question if they were just born to be “only housewives”. Jamyang Kyi's concerns for the plight of Tibetan women
and desire to fight injustice within a patriarchal Tibetan society lead her to write an expose of the trafficking of girls in Amdo (Qinghai Province) for the Tibetan language version of Qinghai Daily (30 November 2005). Her staunch feminist stance made her unpopular with conservative sections of Tibetan society. Jamgyang Kyi argues how can the Tibetans fight to justice when injustice is perpetrated in our own community in the name of tradition.

In January 2008 a blog by Tsering Kyi, former Miss Tibet and accomplished writer who wrote a blog post in Tibetan hosted by mchod me (The Lamp) was shut down by the host because readers complained that pictures posted by Tsering Kyi showed her wearing “revealing western dress”. On January 7th, Jamyang Kyi's blogpost defended Tsering Kyi and saw the erasing of her blog as the silencing of women’s voice. Jamyang Kyi wrote: “the truth is that our culture fosters the physical and mental abuse of women. Women are expected to be obedient housewives. Women are expected to remain silent and when they speak their mind, it is seen as a bad omen. Women spend their lives near the stove in a house that belongs to the brutal and egotistical man”. She wrote that women of Tibet needed to proclaim their voice in the society. Jamyang Kyi applauded Tsering Kyi for breaking the shackles of tradition.

In o
ne of her recent blogposts she wrote critically about the failure of Tibetans to modernise and reform during the first half of the 20th century, which generated interesting comments from her readers. Through her blog, books and music, she has become an influential figure amongst a younger generation of Tibetans, particularly amongst college-educated women for whom she has given a voice to their concerns and struggles.

During her interrogations it became clear that one of the main charges against Jamyang Kyi was her friendship with Woeser and her husband Wang Lixiong (see photo below). Woeser and Jamyang Kyi are two of the most influential women in Tibet today and the friendship between the two women is based not only on their mutual intellectual curiosity but also on larger issues such as justice for the Tibetan people. In an account she has written of her incarceration, she writes how one of the Chinese female guards taunted her with racist and disparaging remarks about Tibetan people and the guard told her that her young child wants to see Tibetans killed. Jamyang Kyi recalls thinking, “You have the rights to speak of my people in these harsh words, where is my right to speak for my nationality?”.

(l-r, Wang Lixiong, Jamyang Kyi, Woeser, Lhamo Kyab
Photo taken in July 2007 in Xining)

The friendship between Jamyang Kyi and Woeser is marked by deep admiration for each other's works. A few years ago, Jamyang Kyi posted this poem dedicated to Woeser:

"Woeser, the Mother’s Daughter"
by Jamyang Kyi

In the beautiful rays of your thought
I see a lamp to clear the darkness of the Snowland.
By your warm flowing blood of love for our people
I am reminded of the compassionate mothers of the Plateau.
With the living words spread forth from your heart
I see the footprint of our ancestors in the mountains of the Plateau.
Oh, Woeser, the mother’s daughter,
You scattered the first seed of pride of Mother Snowland.
You fulfilled the wishes of the mothers of the Plateau.

Here is the translation of Jamyang Kyi's blogpost:

"They" by Jamyang Kyi

They constantly tried to use various methods to make me betray others. During that time, one scene from “The Lives of Others” occurred to me from time to time. The woman in the film, after endlessly suffering unimaginable degrees of intimidation and atrocity, loses herself and turns her back on her beloved man. When the man stares at her with a sense of disbelief, unable to bear her feelings, she runs onto the road in front of an oncoming vehicle. There, she ends her blooming beauty and precious life. Though it has been over two years since I saw the film, I cannot forget the depth of frustration in the man’s stare and the aggrieved look on the woman’s face. Today, these images from the film appear even more real in my mind.

My heart cracked like a dried out riverbank with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, frustration and anger. And I longed for the moisture of light rain. One evening when I was tied to that chair again, I heard the sound of religious songs of a melancholic nature. I realized that this was the first time I was hearing the sound of a living being. This was soothing medicine for my bleeding heart. Since then, I began paying attention to this prayer-tune and awaiting it with hope each day. At that mosque, the devout practitioner prayed 4 to 5 times every day. Normally that prayer-tune could have been perceived as being unpleasant but during those days, it became the best medicine to revive my spirit. For that, I’m deeply grateful to the Mosque and practitioner. If ever a day comes for me to get out, I swore to myself that I would pay a visit to the mosque. Even today, that wish hasn’t disappeared from my heart.

In a magazine there is an oil painting of a landscape that I have looked at countless times. In the painting there is a lone cottage of European style that stands by the lake. That was the only home in the wide hilly grassland. It affforded me a sense of tranquility and peace. Imagining that house to be my own family home, I began to visualize my two daughters playing chase in the grassy meadow near the house; my husband cutting grass beside the lake and I myself, busily cooking dinner awaiting the return of the cattle. That, too, became a means to console and revive my shattered spirit.

One day, as soon as the protests first began, my husband said with a sigh, “Those who have died are already gone. But those who have been arrested are certain to be cast into the eighteen realms of hell and bound to suffer immeasurably.” On the other hand, empathizing with those who had died and their bereaved and loved ones, I was deeply touched and moved to endless tears of sympathy. And at the time, I could not fully comprehend the implications of the incident in which three Tibetans had leapt to their death from a house top.

Each interrogation session aroused a different kind of fear in me. One day in the middle of an interrogation, I thought instead of enduring this, it would be better to be killed by a single bullet. My family and relatives would grieve but as for me, I would have to suffer the pain only once. One day when I was in the washroom, out of nowhere, I found myself thinking about the means or methods of taking my own life. Those days I remembered the small knife that was confiscated at Zhihu Hotel. They hadn’t seen another small knife that was in my handbag during the search. When the chief interrogator asked why I kept a small knife, I replied that it was for eating fruit. But on the other hand there is a small story about this small knife.

Ever since the Chinese-Tibetan conflict had flared up, and as result of the government’s deliberate propaganda, the Chinese would stare at Tibetans with hatred, whether it be in a bus, the market place or on any public road. Once, when I was walking down the road with my daughter who was wearing the traditional chuba that my friend Walza Norzin Wangmo had bought her as a gift, a Chinese kid of about six or seven years old came yelling in front of my daughter and stood blocking her way. This kind of Chinese attitude wasn’t an isolated incident that we experienced but rather the common experience of other Tibetans too. So, for self-defence I had bought another small knife. Later, on reflection, I felt relief that I hadn’t had the chance to get hold of those two knives. Otherwise, during an interrogation session, under unbearable torture, I frantically searched my pouch and then stared at the blue veins of my left wrist. Were I to get hold of the knife then, I would surely have cut the veins of my wrist.

During those days, Wang Lixong’s essay on the stages of suicide came to mind from time to time. And it was a completely different feeling from when I had first read it. I realized for the first time how difficult and harsh it is to betray and deceive someone. I felt that I could understand him now that I could understand it myself.

During those days when I was thrown in front of the six gates of hell, the person I thought of most was my kind and dear mother. Although it has been nearly three years since she passed away, she is very much alive in my heart. What is comforting is the realization that my dear mother has already left me. Otherwise, if she were alive and to witness my incarceration in prison, I know she would go insane.

At the height of unbearable torture, usually I invoked the name of my mother and Goddess Tara for protection. One afternoon when I was tied to a stool, everyone left for lunch except for one female secret police officer. For many days, I had suppressed my tears of suffering silently. But at that moment of weakness, I could not bear it any longer and cried out “Mother, Mother”. The longing for my mother grew more intense and the suffering worsened, and I sobbed. As I was sobbing with pain, all my limbs went numb. At that time the fat man came and said, “You’re crying intentionally because you know I’m here.” Pressing his finger to my forehead, he warned, “If you continue to wail, I will stop this interrogation.”

Shouting in a loud voice, “Are you this stubborn because you think we are making a false accusations?” he left the room. Although it was not something that I was doing, being aware of his presence there, I still couldn’t stop crying. At the time, the nerves in both my hands turned stiff and I could unclench my fist when I tried to force them open. A long time passed sobbing, with my entire body drenched in sweat...

1. Rangsai

Sad once, sad twice
Even the birds in the sky are sad
Ah. For me
This year is so sad

2. zelonged

Good, well done

3. Imgo

As soon as I read your essay, my whole mind was filled with sadness and left me speechless

4. Saizhi

If an opportunity comes where I can listen to these stories from you, I will never forget the story and sound from my ears. You are one of few brave Tibetan women. The courage, suffering, and endless intimidation you have endured cannot be forgotten by history and Tibet in general. You are the leader of Tibetan women. You are an angel of this age and an answer to embarrassing, useless Tibetan men who are drunk with arrogance. Your words of hardship and courage to stand in the face of fear is a song that is spreading in every corner of land of the snow and in the heart of every Tibetan.

5. lechjco1015

Someone called Adon on the blog talks at length about Tibetan women’s rights and so forth. I think, Adon is not a woman at all. The reason is that her thinking is not only strongly connected with religion. It is only in the enlightened realm where someone like Adon would live. Discussion about freedom and equality takes place among real people. And when he brings issues of god and religion into the conversation, [this] makes me think he is a monk.

6. adongzhou

I am going to relate to you a dream.
The dream comes from the experience of suffering and happiness.
The dream comes from the tears and sadness.
In the sleep of peaceful night.
The dream comes from the beauty of light and moon.
And it comes from karma and the lord of death.

7. xzhmdy

Dear friend. I have read your thoughts. All the best.

8. ganglin

Respect, Jamyang Kyi la.

9. ganglin

The film "The Lives of Others", on my blog I have titled it "Sneaking Storm". Everyone, please search for it.

10. glhamotashi

A bag that is made of my fragile heart
Tattered with suffering and sadness
Wind karma of my prayer flag
It had to tatter with the years.

11. DMKA

The flame in the storm
Even if you give life to the wind.
The ash in the wind
life is revived.

12. DMKA

Your friend sadly remembers her son in the beloved land
Through the kindness of an official, I managed to phone my beloved son
I wouldn’t be able to return home for few years
It is unclear if [i will] be released early.

13. Jose
[Let me] rest my head on your lap one day,
It is possible that even I can reach the shrine of freedom.

14. lhamo
These feelings and this pain are the remains of accumulation of past karma. Yet the struggle of [our] nationality and the truth is realised through tears and blood from each one of us. Oh Sister, with droplets from your pen, take us steadily forward.

15. niangjben

Sister Jamyang Kyi. My respect to you. I bow to you from the depth of my life.

16. SLJZ
You are our pride, you are our courage. May your life be free from hindrance forever.
17. Nyiwoe

Jamyang Kyi, I hope you are well. During your absence, all we could do was pray. You became someone that captured our thoughts this year. And became a witness to history. Pray that may your life be free of hindrances.


May your life be free from hindrance.

19. gemzhaxi

What you wrote is really excellent and I thank you for that.

20. zhuome
Sister. Thank you for your courageous composition.

21. jason3
I always wanted to have conversation with you in person. And I deeply respect you.

22. tsedrup
The reality is, that they are they and we are we. I believe that one day we will live under our own sky of freedom. This is evident from their conduct. There is no place for dictatorship in this world.
23. tblinghun

Sister Jamyang Kyi. Your courage and honour will remain in our hearts.

Whatever they do, we can trust that they cannot diminish our courage. An external physical pain will give birth to countless courage. Your pain has planted seeds of courage in the hearts of students. We believe that it will remain for hundreds of years.

25. tongga

I am a female student at Tibet Agricultrual University and I am studying environment sciences. Although this land is called Tibet, there is not much value to Tibetan language. Therefore we have found Tungkar Cultural Centre in order to preserve and allow the Tibetan language to flourish. I hope we will get your support and hope to keep in touch.


You suffered for the people of Tibet, how important it is to speak out the truth.
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Labrang Monk, Jigme, Arrested

A few weeks ago, we posted the video testimony of a monk from Labrang, Jigme. We have just learned that he has been arrested. At around 1pm on November 4th, Jigme was arrested from his quarters in Labrang Monastery. Approximately 70 armed police came to arrest him and there were also army trucks and police cars that removed him from his quarters with their sirens blaring.

Jigme's video testimonies were broadcast by Voice of America on 3rd September 2008 and he had been in hiding since then before recently returning to his quarters in his monastery. View his video testimonies here. At present nobody knows his whereabouts or what will happen to him in the future. Read articles about Jigme's arrest from The Times and The National.
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