DHARAMSALA, Jul 15: Chinese police have fired indiscriminately at peaceful Tibetan protesters demanding the return of the body of Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly revered reincarnate lama and one of the most prominent Tibetan political prisoners, who died in Chinese prison after serving 13 years into his life sentence.
The incident occurred in Athok township in Nyagchuka county in traditional Kham province, the birth place of TenzinDelek Rinpoche, where thousands of Tibetans were protesting in front of the local administrative office on July 13 demanding the return of Rinpoche’s body to his family members so that final funeral rites could be conducted.
At least 15 Tibetans including five elderly Tibetans were injured after Chinese police hurled tear gas canisters and fired indiscriminately at the protesters, reports Central Tibetan administration’s official website Tibet.net. The injured Tibetans have been rushed to a hospital for treatment.
The demonstration on Monday follows Chinese authorities’ refusal to return the body after they notified Rinpoche’s sisters on July 12 evening about his sudden death.
Around hundred Tibetans are reportedly demonstrating in Chengdu, Sichuan’s provincial capital demanding the return of Rinpoche’s body to his family. Till now incidents of police violence have not been reported.
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.