By Lobsang Tenchoe
DHARAMSALA, July 28: Niece of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who was earlier detained for allegedly leaking state secrets along with her mother, has safely arrived in India and held her first press conference today.
“It feels wonderful to be here and to feel the freedom that I have always dreamt of,” was the first sentence Nyima Lhamo, the 26-yr-old niece of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, said at her first press conference organized by the Human Rights Desk of the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration on her behest after arriving in Dharamsala against all the odds on July 24.
“Like my uncle, who was subjected to brutal and unfathomable torture in Chinese prison and passed away, many Tibetan political prisoners are still facing the same fate under the repressive Chinese rule. With the hope of sharing the suffering of Tibetans in Tibet, I decided to escape from Chinese occupied Tibet,” she said while narrating her ordeals and that of her uncle Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s murder in Chinese prison.
Lhamo, who earlier sent information about her uncle through Geshe Nyima while she was in Tibet, expressed her delight at being able to speak freely now and exercise her freedom of speech.
Sparing the details, she said, “I am sure you all are well aware of my uncle’s case. I have two points and one hope to share with you all today – first, to speak about the situation prior and soon after the death of Rinpoche and second, to speak about the ongoing situation in Lithang, in the Traditional Tibetan Province in Kham, in relation with the Rinpoche’s case.”
My hope is to clear the charge levied by the Chinese government that Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was a terrorist involved in bombing. I urge that the charge be thoroughly investigated in accordance with Chinese and international law, and for the Chinese authorities to open up and reveal the true circumstances that led to the death of my uncle, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.
Narrating the ordeals her uncle went through in prison she said that although her mother and her aunt were summoned to meet Rinpoche at Chengdu ten days before Rinpoche passed away, they were not granted the meeting.
“A call from my mother one day confirmed that Rinpoche has passed away,” she said with a teary eye.
Distraught and shattered by the news, she went to her neighbors in the village and broke out the news and sought help. Following which, around 300 people gathered at the Lithang County office demanding the body of Rinpoche to be returned for final rites.
“After repeated appeals, finally nine people were allowed to go to Chengdu to appeal for the return of the body,” she recalled.
“As every vehicle heading towards Chengdu were greeted with numerous police barricades and thoroughly checked. I had to undergo lots of difficulties to reach Chengdu,” she said.
Upon reaching Chengdu, she and her mother were not allowed to see the body of Rinpoche that was kept inside the prison.
“Helpless, we started protesting. My mother started banging her head on the concrete wall and I attempted suicide by hanging myself with a scarf, but I was outnumbered, outmuscled and stopped by the prison officers,” she recalled and added, “Finally we were allowed to see the dead body of Rinpoche. Although his body was covered, I noticed that his lips were black. It confirmed our suspicion that he was poisoned.”
After she and her mother accused the authorities of poisoning and murdering Rinpoche, they were charged with leaking state secrets and detained for 18 days in Chengdu.
While in detention, they were interrogated and questioned whether they have spread any information on Rinpoche’s death.
“I said I received numerous calls from unknown callers and did tell them that Rinpoche was murdered,” she declared.
Later, they were instructed to sign on a document but her mother refused by saying she cannot read.
“My mother further said if the document is about Rinpoche, even at gun point I am not going to sign it. She said Tenzin Delk Ripoche is not only my lama but also a highly respected Tibetan lama followed by many. She told them that she had no authority to sign the document,” she recalled.
Later the Chinese authorities agreed to release them, provided they agree and sign on three conditions, 1) to refrain from sharing any information on Rinpoche in Tibet and China, 2) to refrain from accusing the Chinese authorities of poisoning and murdering Rinpoche, 3) and never to share any information or discuss on Rinpoche’s death at any public gathering and to the outside world.
“As we refused to agree and sign on these conditions, we were threatened that our family members would be put in jail. However, we learned later that our village leader had signed and agreed to those conditions on our behalf and he told us to strictly follow his directives as instructed. That is how my mother and I were released from the detention,” she said.
Post Rinpoche’s death, as revealed by Lhamo, the Chinese authorities continued to dishonor Rinpoche by not allowing his family and native villagers to conduct prayer services in accordance with Tibetan tradition and denying Rinpoche’s followers and well-wisher’s request to build a stupa to pay homage to their late guru.
Moreover, Chinese authorities have banned Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s photo in all the monasteries in Lithang, Rinpoche’s birth place, despite the fact that people of Lithang enjoy relatively more freedom and are also allowed to keep His Holiness’ photo and celebrate his birthday.
According to Lhamo, Chinese authorities continue to insult and denounce Rinpoche by labelling him a fake lama and a criminal, circulating pamphlets and spreading false and misleading information on television, calling him a threat to the so-called “social stability”.
“Rumor has it that authorities in Nagchuka County, formerly under Lithang county and where one of Rinpochey’s key monastery is located, are attempting to appoint a Chinese stamped imposter as the reincarnation of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, as they did in the case of Panchen Rinpoche,” she said.
These harsh and brutal circumstances, she said, forced her out of the cocoon.
“I risked everything to come out of Tibet so that I can speak out to the world. I am fully aware that as I speak about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, I am jeopardizing the lives of my family and relatives at home but I choose to spread the truth and speak for those who continue to suffer under the repressive Chinese regime inside Tibet,” she concluded.