A Generation in Peril: The Lives of Tibetan Children Under Chinese Rule
I. Detention, Torture and Other Maltreatment BY STATE ACTORS

C. Torture

A fat Chinese man, who had an electric rod that he threatened to use if I didn't tell the truth, asked me questions. . . . [He] told the higher officer that I had been talking about Tibetan freedom and independence things that in fact I hadn't done. . . .[T]hey handcuffed one hand, holding it behind me, and held [an] iron near my feet and threatened to hurt me if I didn't tell the truth. They pressed the iron on my calf. In the beginning, it really burned, but then I didn't feel much. -Sixteen years old

Seventeen of the Tibetan children we interviewed had suffered torture at the hands of Chinese police, military personnel and other state officials. To obtain information and confessions, to intimidate and to punish, we found that authorities subject very young children to beatings, whipping, burns with irons and heated metal bands, electric shocks with cattle prods, forced staring at the sun, assault by police dogs, suspension in painful positions and various forms of psychological torture, such as solitary confinement, threatening children's parents or forcing children to witness others being tortured. Virtually every child detained - whether for political activity, attempted flight to India or otherwise - suffered torture. Several young children were tortured merely for suspected association with others' political activities.

1. Torture in Detention

In detention, the most common forms of torture appear to be beatings and electric shocks with cattle prods. One young nun, approximately thirteen years old at the time, informed us that at Gutsa Detention Center guards interrogated her under torture about once each week. During these sessions, they beat her and applied electric cattle prods to the back of her neck. 'I believed that the prod sucked blood. There was pain and sucking and losing consciousness.' A twelve-year-old nomadic boy from Kham who had been caught attempting to escape Tibet recalled: 'Me and the two boys my size had wires placed on our hands which made them black. They [the Chinese border guards] asked, Who was your guide? If you tell us, we will let you go.' When they put the wire on the hand, the whole hand shakes. I thought they were going to make us sick.' To determine her reasons for going to India, army officials subjected a thirteen-year-old girl from Lhasa to electric shocks and slaps and poured cold water over her face.

Another child, only ten years old at the time, described his torture while imprisoned for seeking to escape to Nepal in the back of a truck. Guards beat his legs repeatedly with wooden sticks, joking that 'these were the legs that tried to escape and must be punished.' They also forced him to hold heated metal bands and shocked him with cattle prods. We observed large scars on his legs from the wooden sticks. At the time of our interview, the boy (now fourteen years old) had begun to lose his hair, complained of stomach pains and suffered from severe skin rashes. Some of these symptoms may be a consequence of his torture. This boy, just ten years old and with barely any education, was confined for a full month in a detention facility near the border with Nepal. During this time, guards interrogated him under torture about his political beliefs and opinions regarding the Dalai Lama. His experience suggests that the Chinese government's focus on maintaining political control in Tibet and fear of 'splittist' activities extends even to torturing children barely old enough to understand these issues.

Nor was his case unique. Chinese police beat Dechen, the twelve-year-old girl whose story is recounted above, for over an hour in an effort to force her to tell them who had taught her about Tibet's freedom. Another nun, detained at the age of thirteen for joining a protest, recalled that the guards asked, 'How can you think of such things at such a young age?' . . . They came to slap me, and began beating and boxing me. . . . They wanted to know who put me up to the demonstration, who took me there. I was told, If you don't tell the truth, I'll use this [the electric cattle prod].'' Another sixteen-year-old girl was tortured merely for attending a school run by a rinpoche (Tibetan lama) who was later apprehended for suspected political activities. After police detained her on the pretext that she had written 'independence' in her school notebook (an allegation she denies), they shocked her with cattle prods, burned her with a hot iron and threatened her with death over the course of a three-day interrogation. The police did this, she said, because they wanted her to tell them what the rinpoche had said at school assemblies.

2. Torture Outside of Custody

Children outside of detention also suffer torture for association with or connection to alleged 'political' activity. One boy from Amdo, under eleven years old at the time, told us that police came to his house one day to question his brother, who had been seen at the market carrying a cloth with the Tibetan national flag on it. When they arrived, the child was standing outside with the family's yaks, and without provocation the police unleashed two trained attack dogs on him. The dogs mauled his legs and bit half of his ear off. Chinese military officers subjected another young boy to electric shocks during an interrogation session. They detained him because he was found searching for his father, whom he feared had been arrested. And a four-year-old child, who accompanied his grandmother to turn prayer wheels at the Barkhor, was kicked repeatedly by Chinese police, who also administered electric shocks to his grandmother's neck with a baton. The boy could not understand what the police said, but he expressed the belief that they had beaten him and tortured his grandmother because 'in Tibet you're not supposed to recite any prayers or keep pictures of His Holiness [the Dalai Lama].'

3. Sexual Abuse

Older Tibetan girls may also be subjected to rape and sexual abuse. Dechen, whose story is recounted above, recalled that during her detention: 'Many times the guards tried to tease some girls when they took them in the jeep. There were two girls my age who were tortured. They were very ill and were taken back to Lhasa. They didn't say very clearly, but they indicated they were raped.' According to Kelsang Phuntsok, who runs a program for survivors of torture in Dharamsala, India (the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile), the incidence of rape among young children has been declining, but forms of sexual abuse falling short of forcible intercourse - molestation and sexual harassment - remain fairly common. In February 1999, TIN reported that two Tibetan girls, apprehended during an attempt to escape into Nepal, were raped by five Chinese border police. One girl, now nineteen years old, told TIN: 'They beat me with an electric prod so that I couldn't see anything and I couldn't talk. They hit me below the stomach. It was only in the morning that I regained consciousness, and I was bleeding from the lower part of my body. My friend told me what they had done to me.'

Many prior reports have documented the pervasive use of torture in Tibet. Police, military officials and prison authorities routinely employ physical beatings, aerial suspension and cattle prods, among other techniques, to torture Tibetan prisoners and coerce confessions from them. What is shocking, however, is the extent to which our findings suggest that school-age Tibetan children are subject to these same tortures. Without exception, children we interviewed who had been apprehended for political acts or for trying to flee Tibet had been tortured - sometimes physically, sometimes psychologically and frequently both. Several young children outside of official custody also had suffered torture. This practice, then, does not appear to be an anomaly, limited to a few isolated cases; it emerges as a widespread and regular practice among Chinese authorities. Moreover, no evidence suggests that any perpetrator of torture against children in Tibet has ever been held accountable. Based on these facts, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Chinese government is aware of and at the very least tolerates - if not condones - the torture of Tibetan children.

D. Corporal Punishment and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in Schools -->