Former Tibetan political prisoner passes away due to health complications sustained during incarceration

DHARAMSALA, 21 March: A former political prisoner of Tibet has passed away earlier this week due to prolonged health complications sustained during his time in the Chinese prison.

Former Tibetan political prisoner Ven Tashi Phuntsok, 60, has succumbed to a lengthy illness that he has been battling since his release from Yakra Phuk Prison near Dartsedo in the region on 16 March,  US-based rights group, International Campaign for Tibet(ICT) reported citing three of his close aides now living in exile.

The aides stated in the report that his health had been poor ever since his release from the Chinese prison in 2003 and that he passed away en route to the hospital for treatment.

The rights group stated that Phuntsok was detained from his Jamyang Choekhorling Monastery in Nyachukha in eastern Tibet, Kham on 17 April and falsely accused of colluding with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in a series of bomb explosions in the city of Chengdu.

After a sham trial, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was sentenced to death with two years reprieve and Ven. Tashi Phuntsok to seven years imprisonment which was created an international outcry over the unfair trial, it added.

The report added that the “local Tibetans believe the Chinese authorities framed” them, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche for his social activism and huge following and Tashi Phuntsok for protesting against deforestation.

Tashi Phuntsok led the protest against the Chinese government’s deforestation drive in his region in 1993.

Though he has been sentenced for seven years, “he was released early on prematurely after less than two years in prison as the Chinese authorities feared he might die under their watch.”

His pulmonary conditions the report said has worsened while serving sentence in Chinese prisons.

Chinese authorities are known to release political prisoners when it became imminent that the prisoners would die from the injuries sustained from severe beatings and torture during police detention and interrogation, the report concluded.

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