The wife of an American scholar and activist who suffered severe injuries while in the custody of Chinese officials expressed outrage at their conduct and appealed today for help in obtaining the release of her husband's translator from detention in China.
Daja Meston, 29, an advocate for Tibet from Newton, Mass., remains in fair condition at Brigham and Women's Hospital, several weeks after jumping from a third-floor hotel room in a remote area of China where he was interrogated for at least three days by state security personnel.
Meston, who received medical treatment in Hong Kong before returning to the United States this week, suffered a broken back, heel fractures and severe internal injuries from the fall, which Chinese authorities said was part of an attempt to escape. He is steadily recovering and eventually will walk again, doctors said today. A fund has been established to cover his medical expenses, which so far exceed $100,000.
In the meantime, Meston's wife--who with her husband has been a vocal opponent of Chinese policies in Tibet--said he remains traumatized by the ordeal and has shared few details of what transpired.
"What they did to him was inhumane and appalls me," said Phuntsok Meston, who traveled to China to help arrange her husband's release and spoke publicly about the incident for the first time during a news conference outside the hospital here this morning. "My biggest concern right now is his health. I know he has a lot of nightmares, and he can't sleep very well."
Timothy McNeill, a childhood friend, said Meston appeared very frail. His mood, McNeill said, "was a combination of relief and lingering terror. He told me he didn't feel safe until he saw Phuntsok."
Meston, who grew up in a Tibetan monastery in Nepal and is fluent in Tibetan, went to China in late July to conduct an independent inspection of the proposed site of a World Bank resettlement program. Tibetan groups oppose the project, which would move 58,000 poor farmers into an area dominated by Tibetan and Mongolian herdsmen, because they say it would dilute their population and harm the environment. The World Bank has decided to delay the funding.
The Massachusetts scholar was detained Aug. 15 in the remote region, along with an Australian colleague and their interpreter, on charges that they conducted illegal research and took photographs in a restricted zone. The Australian was freed unharmed, but the whereabouts of the guide, Tsering Dorjee, 26, a Chinese citizen, are unknown.
Dorjee's condition remains Meston's "greatest worry," his wife told more than a dozen Tibetan advocates gathered here today with flags and blue "Free Tsering Dorjee" posters in support of their friend inside the hospital and their countryman thousands of miles away.
"If it can happen to an American citizen, imagine what is happening to Tibetans there," said Jampa Palsang, 29, a local restaurant owner.
Addressing the crowd in traditional Tibetan dress tied with a colorful pangden, a woven apron that denotes marriage, Phuntsok Meston said her husband's knowledge of Tibetan culture and spirituality might have been perceived as a threat by Chinese authorities, even though they had opened access to the proposed resettlement area.