Palden Gyatso was born in 1933 and raised in a small Tibetan village. At the age of eighteen he became an ordained Buddhist Monk at one of Tibet’s most famous monasteries, Drepung Monastery. In 1959, Palden was jailed along with thousands of other religious. The Chinese under its leader Mao then undertook the ‘Cultural Revolution’ which was aimed at destroying Tibetan culture and producing ‘thought reform’ amongst the Tibetan people.
Palden endured his suffering and remained in prisons and labor camps for the next 33 years, where he was a victim of severe religious and class oppression. He was exposed to various forms of indoctrination and torture aimed at trying to make him change his ways and accept the Chinese communist/socialist ideology. Throughout his imprisonment, Palden resisted the Chinese repression and served as an inspiration to his fellow inmates.
Released on August 25, 1992, from Drapchi prison in Lhasa, Palden Gyatso had served more years behind bars than any other surviving Tibetan that has reached the West. Prior to his flight out of Tibet into India, at great personal risk, Palden procured instruments of torture like the ones which had been used on him in order to show the outside world. With the torture implements spread before him, his testimony brings to life the inhuman atrocities committed against prisoners in Tibet.
Since 1992 Palden has devoted his entire life to exposing the atrocities of the Chinese occupiers, especially amongst the political prisoners. He has traveled and spoken extensively to people around the world. In 1995 he gave evidence at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. He also testified before the United Nations and the U.S. Congress about the human rights abuses he had suffered, fulfilling his dream to tell the world about China’s torture techniques and prison conditions in Tibet. In 1996 Palden co-led a 300-mile walk from the Chinese Consulate in Washington, DC to the United Nations in New York City. Organized by the International Tibet Independence Movement, the walk began on March 10, the Tibetan National Uprising Day.
In 1997 Palden’s story, The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk, was translated by Tsering Shakya and published by Grove Press. In his testimony, Palden describes China’s penal system in Tibet and the ruthless tortures he and his co-jailers experienced. He says, “A prison official poked me with an electric cattle prod and poured boiling water over me because he said he did not like my attitude. No medical treatment was given after that.” Palden’s story, like many of his fellow Tibetans, shows the strength of the human spirit in the face of tremendous suffering.