Tibetan Monks Followers Hope for his Release

2005-01-24
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Undated photo of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. Photo: RFA

WASHINGTON—Supporters of a jailed Tibetan monk whose two-year stay of execution has officially lapsed are voicing hope that Chinese authorities will rescind his death penalty, after one of his disciples was freed several days ago.

According to sources who asked not to be named, one of Tenzin Delek Rimpoche’s outspoken supporters, Tashi Phuntsok, was released from detention Jan. 19. “Many Tibetans consider this a good indicator for Tenzin Delek Rimpoche,” said one man. “But everyone is very cautious about discussing Rimpoche."

Chinese authorities in Tibet are expected to make an announcement concerning Tenzin Delek Rimpoche’s fate imminently, the sources said. He was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension on Dec. 2, 2002, in connection with a series of bombings blamed on supporters of Tibetan independence.

Suspended death sentences are almost always commuted to long jail terms in China, but Tenzin Delek Rimpoche’s family feared he could be singled out for harsher treatment.

Said to be well-treated

[The Public Security chief] confessed that he does not have the authority to release information about Rimpoche, but he said our Lama is well and he is being taken good care of [in prison] with good food and clothes. He behaved well in the prison. [He told us,] ‘You should go home, and you will be informed of the decision as soon as it has been made.'

Another man, Lobsang Dhondup, was simultaneously sentenced to death in the same case and executed on Jan. 26, 2003. Both men denied the charges against them, and the case prompted an international outcry.

Tashi Phuntsok was arrested in 2002 after travelling to Beijing to appeal for his teacher’s release, the sources said. He was chief monk in charge of discipline at Tenzin Delek Rimpoche's monastery in Nyakchuka at the time of his arrest.

In interviews with Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service, Tenzin Delek Rimpoche's two sisters said they had been told by the Public Security chief of Kardze Tibetan Prefecture in Sichuan Province, a Mr. Zhang, that their brother was being treated well in prison.

Sisters speak out

"On Nov. 29, we went to see the Public Security chief of Kardze Tibetan Prefecture in Sichuan Province. We told him that Rimpoche had already completed two years and should be released,” one the sisters said.

“At first he claimed that he knew nothing about Rimpoche or where he was detained. We insisted that he was the Public Security chief of all the 18 counties of Kardze Prefecture, and he should know about Rimpoche. We challenged him by threatening to protest and never leave unless he tells us about Rimpoche,” said the sister, who asked not to be named.

“Then he confessed that he does not have the authority to release information about Rimpoche, but he said our Lama is well and he is being taken good care of [in prison] with good food and clothes. He behaved well in the prison. [He told us,] ‘You should go home, and you will be informed of the decision as soon as it has been made.’”

Original reporting in Tibetan

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