DHARAMSALA, Jul 13: A well respected Tibetan spiritual teacher known to be in failing health condition has died in Chinese prison after repeated calls for his medical treatment were denied by Chinese authorities.
Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65 died on July 12 in Chuandong prison in Chengdu, Sichuan provincial capital, media reports quoted his cousin Geshe Nyima as saying.
Geshe Nyima also added that prison authorities had notified Rinpoche’s sisters about his death on Sunday but despite urging the authorities to return Rinpoche’s body, his body has not been handed over to his family.
Repeated calls were made by Tibetans and international bodies to the Chinese government to release Rinpoche on medical parole, but to no avail.
The elected head of the Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay today expressed his profound sadness at Rinpoche’s demise and said such mistreatment by the Chinese government will only generate more resentment among Tibetans.
“It is sad to learn about the death of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. We knew he was gravely ill and his followers made numerous appeals for a medical parole. The fact that he was not even allowed medical parole and last wish of followers to see him reflects continuing hard line policies of the Chinese government. Such mistreatment will only generate more resentment among Tibetans,” Central Tibetan Administration’s official website Tibet.net quoted Sikyong Sangay as saying.
Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest pro-independece Tibetan organization in exile expressed shock and sadness on the news of the death of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. In a statement released today on its website, TYC stated that, “Rinpoche was a true Tibetan hero sacrificing his life for the people and cause of Tibet”. TYC also demanded a clear detailed explanation on the circumstance leading to his demise from the Chinese Government and to return Rinpoche’s body to his family so that traditional Tibetan burial rites can be carried out.
Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was arrested on Apr 7, 2002 allegedly for being involved in a bomb blast on April 3, 2002 at the central square in 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. 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.
Trulku Tenzin Delek was widely known for his efforts to develop social, medical, educational and religious institutions for Tibetan nomads in eastern Tibet. He was also an ardent advocate for environmental conservation and had challenged indiscriminate Chinese logging and mining projects on many occasions in the past.