WASHINGTON, Jan. 9--Two Tibetans handed death sentences for a series of bombings in western China were to face a new trial Friday on the same charges and before the same court, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports. Both Tenzin Deleg Rimpoche, 52 and a monk, and activist Lobsang Dhondup, 28, were to stand trial early Friday local time, court officials in Kardze [Ganzi] Prefecture told RFA's Tibetan service.
The two men were to be re-tried on the same charges and in front of the same Kardze Intermediate Court in the western Chinese province of Sichuan, according to the sources, who asked not to be named. How long the trial would last and whether the men would face new judges was unclear.
Wang Lixiong, a Chinese academic with ties to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, said the men had again been denied lawyers to prepare and present their defense. Wang and others said a small number of people would be have restricted access to the new trial.
Tenzin Deleg Rimpoche meanwhile began a hunger strike Jan. 6 to protest his detention and abuse in prison, according to a relative who spoke on condition of anonymity. "He has threatened that he will die unless this trial is conducted in a fair and just manner," the relative said. "He has been beaten and chained, and his foot is already damaged by shackles," the relative added.
Both Tenzin Deleg Rimpoche and Lobsang Dhondup were sentenced to death in December in connection with a series of bombings blamed on supporters of Tibetan independence. Tenzin Deleg Rimpoche�s sentence was suspended for two years, however. Death sentences in China are usually carried out, while suspended death sentences are often commuted to long prison terms.
Sichuan Province borders the Tibetan Autonomous Region and comprises parts of traditionally Tibetan territory. Ganzi forms part of the Kham Tibetan region, which falls under the administration of Sichuan Province.
Sources close to the men said they had been denied legal assistance during their first trial. Their death sentences prompted an international outcry, and human rights organizations have called for an open re-trial of the case. One of several judges who decided the case told RFA at the time that the monk had confessed to five of six explosions with which he was charged. He failed to indicate whether Lobsang Dhondup, 28, had also confessed.
The judge, who identified himself only as Director Zhao, cited numerous bomb blasts between 1998 and 2002: two at the home of Lithang Kyabgon Rimpoche, the chief abbot of Lithang Monastery, three in the city of Dartsedo [Kangding, Sichuan], one in front of a major government building, and one outside a police station.
The Dalai Lama's Tibetan government-in-exile has demanded that both sentences be reversed. It said the two men had been denied fair trials and the sentences should be thrown out.
Militants opposed to Chinese control of Tibet have carried out at least eight similar bomb attacks in the Himalayan region since the mid-1990s. Communist troops marched into the region in 1950, and Beijing says it has been part of China for centuries.
The Dalai Lama has repeatedly urged Tibetans to avoid violence in opposing Chinese rule. But some Tibetans have pushed for militant action, and Chinese authorities have accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding pro-independence violence.
RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.