Tibetan political prisoner Geshe Phende Gyaltsen dies in Chinese police custody
DHARAMSALA, 3 Feb: A 56-year-old prominent Tibetan monk from Gyongpa village in Lithang County in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham who is serving life imprisonment has died in Chinese police custody, reported the Central Tibetan Administration’s official website, Tibet.net.
Geshe Phende Gyaltsen who was in the custody of Lithang County’s police station since March last year reportedly died on 26 January 2023 due to unknown ill health, the report said.
The Tibetan monk was “actively engaged in the renovation of Shedrub Dhargyeling monastery in Lithang” and that he was “arbitrarily arrested by the local authority and sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement as a mediator between two parties in the county,” the report added.
According to the report, the authorities transported the Tibetan political prisoner’s “body to his native village in Gyongpa but prohibited people from visiting the deceased” and further imposed restrictions on internal movement for three days following which “the body was shifted to Beijing.”
Geshe Phende Gyaltsen was born in Gyongpa village in Lithang County in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham in 1967.
He has visited India in 1985 to study Buddhist tantric and received his Geshe Degree from Sera Mey Monastery’s Pomra Khangtsen in Bylakuppe, South India. He later returned to “Tibet to give a teaching on tantric and meditation practices to scholars.”
Gyaltsen now joins a long list of Tibetans to have perished in a Chinese prison, often under mysterious circumstances.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a Dharamsala-based rights group called out China in its 2020 annual report for the “surge in arbitrary arrests and detention, extrajudicial killings enabling the culture of endemic and systematic torture.”