WASHINGTON—The U.S. State Department has voiced serious concern about the closed-door trial of a Tibetan monk who could face the death penalty when a two-year stay of execution expires in less than three weeks.
The United States has stressed “the need to provide clear and convincing evidence of guilt in all capital cases and noted widespread international concern over Tenzin Delek [Rinpoche’s] case,” spokeswoman Darla Jordan told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
"The United States has been following the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche very closely since learning of his arrest in connection to several bombings in Sichuan Province and China’s imposition of the death sentence in this case,” she said in an interview.
On Dec. 6, 2002, a court in China’s western Sichuan Province handed Tenzin Delek Rinpoche a suspended two-year death sentence in connection with a series of bombings blamed on supporters of Tibetan independence.
Another man, Lobsang Dhondup, was simultaneously sentenced to death in the same case and executed on Jan. 26, 2003. Both men denied the charges, and the case prompted an international outcry.
The sentences prompted an international outcry, and human rights organizations called for an open re-trial of the case. Three weeks before the suspension of his sentence is set to expire, human rights activists are calling again for the monk’s release.
Washington “has repeatedly expressed serious concern to People’s Republic of China officials that Tenzin Delek was not accorded due process during his closed trial and that, despite repeated assurances to the contrary by Chinese officials, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s sentence was not reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court,” she added.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage have raised the issue with their Chinese counterparts, she said, along with former Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lorne Craner.
"We have recently raised our concerns about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s situation here in Washington with the Chinese Embassy, in Beijing with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with authorities of Sichuan, where Tenzin Delek is imprisoned,” Jordan said.
"We have emphasized the need to provide clear and convincing evidence of guilt in all capital cases and noted widespread international concern over Tenzin Delek’s case,” she said.
"Promoting greater respect for the human rights of all Chinese citizens, including Tibetans, is among our key foreign policy objectives in China. The position of the U.S. government on the general principle of freedom of expression is absolutely clear: No individual should be detained solely for expressing personal views or engaging in other peaceful legitimate activities.”
"We consider him a political prisoner,” said T. Kumar, Washington-based director of Asia Advocacy at Amnesty International said his week. “Amnesty International urges the Chinese authorities to stop all executions, and in particular the execution of political prisoners such as Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.”
"We hope the Chinese will have a new beginning after being awarded the Olympics for 2008, and we hope [they will] stop the execution of Tenzin as well as releasing him unconditionally and immediately,” Kumar said.
The position of the U.S. government on the general principle of freedom of expression is absolutely clear: No individual should be detained solely for expressing personal views or engaging in other peaceful legitimate activities.
In its 2003 report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department said the Chinese government’s human rights record in Tibetan areas of China “remained poor, although some positive developments continued.”
"The trials of both Lobsang Dhondup and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche were closed to the public on ‘state secrets’ grounds, and they were denied due process, including access to adequate representation,” the report.
"Lobsang Dhondup's execution the same day he lost his appeal to the Sichuan Provincial Higher People's Court, as well as the failure of the national-level Supreme People's Court to review the case as promised to foreign officials, raised serious concerns in the international community.”
In January 2003, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche made an audio tape that was smuggled out of prison to RFA’s Tibetan service, in which he reiterated his innocence.
"Whatever [the authorities] do and say, I am completely innocent," he said from his jail cell in Dartsedo (Kangding, Sichuan). "I have always urged people to be kind-hearted and caring toward others. Everybody knows what I say and practice."
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who studied in India with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, said he heard from friends "about some explosions in the Sichuan area. Sometimes it was described as bomb explosions."
"I was wrongly accused because I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetans. The Chinese did not like what I did and what I said. That is the only reason why I was arrested."
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