Interview Age: 67
Date of Birth: 1945
Birthplace: Kham, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 2011
Political Prisoner: No
Interview No.: 19D
Location: Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
Categories: Oppression and Imprisonment
Keywords: childhood memories, Chinese -- oppression under, Chinese army -- invasion by , Chinese rule -- life under, commune system, Kham, thamzing/struggle sessions
Sonam was born into a middle class family--his father was a trader and his mother was a farmer. It was a "happy life" with freedom to go to the monasteries, and they had good food and clothing. When the Chinese invaded his village at age 13, Sonam's father escaped to the mountains when people were ordered to surrender their weapons. He recalls how his father was shot in the legs by the Chinese and died from starvation in Dhartsedo prison.
The Chinese gave Sonam's mother the symbolic "hat," the symbol of a counter revolutionary because of the financial status of the family and his father's escape. Sonam describes the Chinese' oppressive rule and the meetings that were held three times a week to torture and insult the accused villagers like his mother. His family lived in fear and Sonam did hard labor, cutting wood, digging earth and building houses.
Sonam also experienced commune life started under Mao Zedong during which everybody had to work together and people had no freedom, even to visit neighboring villages without seeking permission from Chinese officials. He also speaks about his life after the commune system was dissolved and a small amount of religious freedom was restored. Sonam finally left Tibet in 2011 with his wife in order to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
- Marcella Adamski (Interviewer)
- Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
- Pema Tashi (Videographer)