Interrupted by silent sobs and pregnant pauses, a grisly tale of torture unfolded as Tibetan monk and former political prisoner Bhakdo told his story to about 30 people in Emerson hall last night.
Sponsored by the Tibet Awareness Group, Bhakdo said that he wanted to use the event inform Americans, and especially students, of the human rights violations being perpetrated by China on the people of Tibet and to encourage the world to impose economic sanctions on China for these abuses.
Through an interpreter, the soft-spoken monk said, "My story should give you an example of what is happening to Tibetans as a people under Chinese rule."
In 1988, Bhakdo was arrested and imprisoned for protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet.
He recounted his first day in prison: "I watched the courtyard through a window. There I saw people being tortured with sticks, cattle prods, everything. A guard saw me and pointed, 'do you see this? Tomorrow this is what is going to happen to you.'"
His face went blank as he documented the list of tortures he was forced to endure.
"I was stripped naked, and shackles placed on my feet and hands. Then they beat me and would not let me sleep for 48 hours, striking me whenever I tried to fall asleep.
"They pushed my stomach onto a hard stick, so hard that blood came out of my mouth, when I was about to go unconscious, they poured freezing water on me.
"Our food was mixed with feces from the toilets, so that we became sick.... They connected electrodes to my fingertips and put another electric prod in my mouth. The pain was so severe that I automatically urinated in my pants," he said.
Now only 21, Bhakdo became a monk when he was 17 years old, not because he was especially religious at the time, but because, he said, "I thought it was the only way I could get food."
At the monastery he learned how the repression of his people was being caused by China's occupation.
When he took part in a protest against Chinese rule in 1988, he was caught on film throwing stones at Chinese photographers and was forced to go into hiding when the government put a price on his head.
After masquerading as a woman in Lhasa for a month-and-a-half, he heard that the government was planning to arrest his parents if he did not turn himself in.
"Hearing this, I went home for fear that they would torture my parents," he said.
Bhakdo was released after he served his three year term. His sentence was the shortest of all the monks arrested in the protest, because of his age.
The other monks received sentences ranging from 10 years to life in prison to the death penalty. Many are still incarcerated.
Tibet has been under Chinese occupation since China's invasion in 1950, and religious and political freedoms have been severely curtailed.
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, was forced to flee to India in 1959.
The newly appointed seven-year-old Pachen Lama--the second most important religious figure in the Tibet--disappeared and is feared to have been captured or killed.
As Bhakdo left, clad in crimson robes, with a shaved head and rugged mountain boots, he bowed swiftly and asked, "Keep Tibet in mind. Help in any way you can."