In Tibet, my family opposed the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and for that we suffered harsh persecution for many years. My father had been a Tibetan government minister and was executed for opposing Chinese rule and resisting the Chinese invasion. My family was labeled as enemies of the communist regime, and I was expelled from school when I was ten years old. I entered a Buddhist monastery when I was fourteen years old. As a Buddhist monk, I distributed literature about the Dalai Lama, and peacefully advocated for Tibetan independence. I had hoped to bring about more freedom for Tibetans, who like myself, were denied the same rights as Chinese citizens. Because of my activities, the Chinese government arrested and imprisoned me for three years and four months. During those years, they tortured me.
Fortunately, I managed to escape to this country, and arrived in November 1995, before there was such a thing as expedited removal and the filing deadline. With the help of Human Rights First and volunteer lawyers at Hunton & Williams, I won asylum in 1997.
In 2000, lawyers at the firm of Latham & Watkins helped me to found Song Tsen Tibetan Community Outreach, a Tibetan community organization based in New York City. As President of Song Tsen, I work to inform the Tibetan refugee community about the 1996 immigration law’s asylum filing deadline. In a survey that Song Tsen conducted with 600 Tibetan refugees in New York City, we found that more than half did not know about the one year filing deadline. I have worked with many Tibetan refugees who missed the filing deadline or did not know that it exists. Through my work, I have also heard of Tibetan refugees who have come to the United States to seek asylum but were turned away after being stopped by immigration officials at J.F.K. International Airport.
With Song Tsen and on my own, I advocate for the rights of the Tibetan community throughout the United States. By providing Tibetan interpretation services free of cost, I have assisted detained Tibetan refugees communicate with their lawyers and helped Tibetan refugees in the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture work through the trauma they have survived. In July 2004, I successfully completed the testing requirements necessary in order to begin serving as an interpreter for the Immigration Court.
In 2001, I was presented Human Rights First’s annual Human Rights First Award in recognition of all that I have given back to the refugee community in New York and the United States. I continue that work today.