Situated in the north eastern outskirts of Lhasa, Drapchi is the largest prison in Tibet, although there are many more – some concealed by titles such as ‘re-education centres’ or ‘reform through labour camps’.
Opened in 1965 and built with forced labour it is known in Chinese as Di Yi Jianyu-No 1. Prison. The prison is arranged into a series of nine units and has recently been expanded and restructured. It has an estimated population of 1000 of which some 600 are thought to be political prisoners ranging in age from 18 to 85. Most of these are monks and nuns.
Conditions inside are harsh with a brutalising regime of forced labour, systematic torture, poor diet, and constant brainwashing programmes.
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‘I appeal on behalf of Ms. Yeshi Choedon, a Tibetan political prisoner, who was arrested during March 2008 during the widespread uprisings against China’s occupation of Tibet. Aged 55 she was sentenced, by the so-called Intermediate People’s Court in Lhasa, to 15 years imprisonment for revealing information to foreign media about the violent suppression of peaceful protests against Chinese occupation. The communist Chinese authorities had previously announced the verdict on November 7, 2008, according to a number of sources Yeshi Choedon has been undergoing forced labour in a prison near Lhasa (more than likely to be Drapchi Prison). Yeshi, a retired Doctor of Tibetan medicine, had worked at a clinic near Norbulingka before taking retirement few years back, following which she took her residence at Ramoche. She was arrested without valid charges during the peaceful protests by Tibetans in Lhasa in March 2008. Yeshi Choedon has been denied any right to meet her family members since her arrest. I urge your office to investigate and support Yeshi Choedon’s case, and with all urgency, raise her plight with representatives of the communist Chinese authorities.’