DHARAMSALA, April 8: On the 13th anniversary of the imprisonment of Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a widely respected Tibetan reincarnate lama, Students for a Free Tibet-India and Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche Service Community launched a global campaign at an event held on Apr 7 at the TCV Day School, Mcleod Ganj urging world leaders to pressure the Chinese government to release the Buddhist teacher, known to be in critical health, on medical parole.
Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament and Bawa Kelsang Gyaltsen, member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile attended the event as Chief Guest and special guest speaker respectively. The event was also attended by several Tibetan Parliamentarians, representatives of various NGOs, students of Trulku Tenzin Delek and Tibetan residents of Dharamsala as well as non-Tibetan supporters.
The influential Tibetan Buddhist teacher who was sentenced on trumped up charges in connection with a bomb blast in Chengdu, according to Tibetans, is said to be in critical health condition and in need of an urgent surgery.
“Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has been in prison for 13 years and is known to be in extremely poor health with a serious heart condition and high blood pressure,” said Yunten Lobsang, a former student of Tenzin Delek Tinpoche.
“During a rare visit to see Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, his family spoke to a doctor who told them that he believed Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had a serious heart condition for which he needed surgery,” he added.
Speaking at the event Ani Gelek, a Tibetan Buddhist nun and a former student of Rinpoche thanked all those individuals and support groups for the initiatives they have taken in trying to secure Rinpoche’s release. She recalled a visit to the prison by family members and relatives when Rinpoche told them, “I have never done anything against Chinese law, you can appeal to higher courts, some people think that it will make my situation worse if they appeal to higher, that is wrong. They have put me in the worst situation already; you can continue to protest and appeal”.
“Therefore, we have four appeals to the Tibetan administration, NGOs promoting and protecting justice, institutes like UN, international administrations, world leaders, human rights groups and associations: 1) Rinpoche is in critical health condition, hence, he needs to be urgently released and given treatment abroad. 2) If he cannot be released, then his case should be filed by independent advocates internationally, and try to give him justice. 3) Chinese government should guarantee his life and health. 4) Request all Rinpoche’s supporters to put in more efforts to try get him released in this New Year,” Ani Gelek appealed.
“Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s case reflects the dire situation of Tibetans living under Chinese occupation. Over the last 13 years, the Chinese government has rejected the plea of thousands of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet calling for the release of this innocent Tibetan monk and community leader,” said Dorjee Tseten, Asia Director of Students for a Free Tibet.
“We urge the world leaders to pressure the Chinese government to release Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on medical parole so that he can receive medical care.”
Bawa Kelsang Gyaltsen spoke on how the sentencing of Trulku Tenzin Delek was conducted against China’s own judicial law and why the Tibetans stress that he was sentenced on trumped up charges.
“The Chinese government took advantage of the global war on terrorism following the twin tower attack in United States and sentenced Trulku Tenzin Delek on trumped up charges. Only Lobsang Dhondup’s confession, which was obtained under torture and some explosive materials, which the authorities claimed were found at Rinpoche’s residence, were presented as evidence. According to Chinese law, whenever such a raid is conducted at a person’s house, either the accused or a family member or a neighbour should be present as witness. But, in Rinpoche’s case there wasn’t any witness to prove that the explosive materials were actually found at his residence.” Bawa Kelsang said adding, “Under Chinese law, any person who has spent at least seven years in prison is eligible for parole.”
Addressing the gathering, Speaker Penpa Tsering urged the Chinese government to release all the Tibetan political prisoners, including Trulku Tenzin Delek and Chadrel Rinpoche. He said the Tibetan political prisoners were simply asking for their unique culture, language and religion to be respected and not seeking separation from the mainland as the Chinese government project them to be.
“Under the Central Tibetan Administration’s Middle Way Policy, Tibetans are seeking genuine autonomy and not separation. So, by calling Tibetan spiritual leaders, scholars, writers, singers and environmentalists separatists, the Chinese government is actually creating the separation,” Speaker Tsering said.
Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a renowned Buddhist teacher known for his efforts in developing social, medical, educational and religious institutions for Tibetan nomads in eastern Tibet and, advocacy of environmental conversation was arrested on Apr 7, 2002 on alleged charges of being involved in a bomb blast on April 3, 2002 at the central square Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital. Chinese authorities sentenced him to death in December 2002 along with his 28-year old assistant, Lobsang Dhondup. Lobsang was executed almost immediately in late January 2003, marking the first execution of a Tibetan for political crimes in 20 years. Trulku Tenzin Delek’s sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment on 26 January 2005, and subsequently reduced to 20 years. During the trial, no evidence other than the confession of Lobsang Dhondup, which was obtained under torture, was offered as Rinpoche maintained his innocence throughout the trial. No documents have been released till date, shrouding the proceedings in secrecy.
The event was marked with a political theatre re-enacting Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s imprisonment and a book launch by the students of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in exile on his life story. Attendees also signed a joint petition from the International Tibet Network, a global coalition of 180 non-governmental organizations and took part in a photo action appealing world governments to urgently pursue Rinpoche’s medical parole. The petitions will be delivered to Foreign Ministers of various governments on Jun 21, the International Day for victims of Torture.