More than 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a direct result of the Chinese occupation in 1949. More than 6,000 of Tibet’s rich religious and cultural centers have been destroyed. In 1959 the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, together with approximately 80,000 Tibetans, across the Himalayas to India, where they have lived in exile for over 40 years.
Buddhism became the primary target for communist “reform” under chairman Mao’s cultural revolution and hundreds of thousands of buddhists were arrested and sent to prisons or labour camps. The exact number of political prisoners in Tibet before 1979 is unknown, but according to some estimates at least 70 % of the prisoners have died in captivity.
Even today political activism, no matter how peaceful, is considered a very serious offence and leads to prison sentences of between a year and life imprisonment. Similarly, any expression of support for the Dalai Lama, even carrying his picture or showing the banned Tibetan national flag, are reasons for arrest and imprisonment.
Torture is routine during interrogation and detention of political prisoners in Tibetan jails. Methods of torture are varied and extremely cruel. They include electric shocks, beatings with nail-studded clubs, metal rods or rifle butts, burning with red-hot irons or boiling water, hanging people by the thumbs or feet, sexual abuse, prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures, deprivation of food, water and sleep and prolonged solitary confinement.