CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 June 2019

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Police fire on Tibetans demanding 
body of spiritual leader

NYAGCHUKA (Agencies): Police in China opened fire on protesters outside the government offices in Nyagchuka demanding the return of the body of a Tibetan spiritual leader, 65-year-old Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, on July 13, following his death under suspicious circumstances at the Mianyang Prison on July 12.

However, it was learned on July 16 that the authorities cremated the remains of the Tibetan monk in Dazhou, in the southwest of Sichuan province.

AsiaNews reported that one of his sisters, Dolka Lhamo, was allowed to attend the cremation and about 30 monks and nuns had been permitted to wash the body prior to going to the electric furnace.

A request that the body be preserved for 15 days was rejected by the authorities.

Those who saw the body said that generally it was in good condition, not emaciated or scarred, but the fingernails and mouth of Rinpoche were black, raising suspicions that he had been poisoned.

Radio Free Asia reported that his relatives are accusing the government of poisoning him.

UCAN reported that as the most senior Tibetan religious figure behind bars in China, Rinpoche was considered a major irritant to Beijing due to his support for the exiled Dalai Lama and efforts to revive Tibetan Buddhism in areas around his hometown in Sichuan.

At least 15 people received serious gunshot wounds as police fired live rounds and teargas in Karze in the Tibetan autonomous region of Sichuan province, the Tibetan government in exile in northern India reported.

Buddhist nuns were among those wounded, according to the London-based Free Tibet that put the number of injured at over 17 late on July 13.

It remains unclear whether security forces have managed to end the protests in the hometown of the popular spiritual leader.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche,” Tibet’s exiled parliament in Dharamsala, northern India, said in a statement on July 15. “The Chinese government has repeatedly violated all universal human rights in Tibet.”

Rinpoche had spent nearly 13 years in prison in Sichuan’s provincial capital of Chengdu following his conviction and 20-year sentence over a series of bombings in the city in 2002. He disputed the court decision.

Chinese authorities informed the monk’s family of his death on July 12, but have so far failed to release his body despite calls to do so by family, the government of the United States of America (US) and rights groups.

“Authorities should also ensure that freedom of religion and freedom of peaceful assembly are respected in the region,” William Nee, a Hong Kong-based China researcher for Amnesty International, commented.

An article published on July 20 by the state-run Xinhua news agency, quotes prison officials as saying Rinpoche received good medical treatment, but often failed to take his medication.

Agence France Presse reported on July 18 that Lhamo and her daughter, Nyima Lhamo, were detained by the authorities on the previous day. Two of his other sisters were also detained for not signing a health certificate for their brother earlier in the week.

His trial in late 2002 was widely condemned by rights groups as a political show which concluded with a death sentence for co-defendant, Lobsang Dondrup, who was executed a year later.

Last month, campaign groups including Free Tibet and Freedom House urged the US government to address Rinpoche’s case with senior Chinese officials during an annual dialogue in Washington DC.

However, Free Tibet said that it remains unclear whether the US State Department raised his detention during talks that failed to strongly address rights concerns in China.

New York-based human rights advocate, Rose Tang, told AsiaNews that about 50 protesters gathered at the Chinese consulate in New York, briefly shutting it down.

Another 40 protested outside the Chinese consulate in San Francisco and AsiaNews reported that subsequently, the US government has called on Beijing to investigate and make the circumstances of Rinpoche’s death public.

Speaking at a hearing called by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch China director, Sophie Richardson, urged the US government to “speak more clearly and impose a price, and articulate what that price will be to the Chinese government when it does things like refuse to return the body of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche to his family and community.”

Richardson said that a scheduled meeting between the US and China on counterterrorism should now be cancelled. “To have a counterterrorism dialogue with a government that prosecuted Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on charges of terrorism is appalling,” she argued.


Rinpoche was sentenced in 2002 along with Dhondup for a bomb attack in April of the same year. An open trial was never held nor were copies of the verdict or indictment released to the public.

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