Police in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have detained the sister of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a popular Tibetan monk who died last week in unexplained circumstances in a Chinese prison, also taking into custody the woman’s daughter, Tibetan sources said.
Dolkar Lhamo, 55, and Nyima Lhamo, aged about 25, were detained in the provincial capital Chengdu at about 8:00 a.m. on July 17 by police sent from their native Lithang (in Chinese, Litang) county, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.
“No reason was given for their detention, but local people believe they were suspected of having shared information related to the death of Rinpoche with other people,” Geshe Lobsang Yonten said, citing contacts in the region.
Separately, Geshe Jamyang Nyima, another source in exile with connections to the family, confirmed the women had been detained.
No information was immediately available on their current whereabouts.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, died on July 12 in the 13th year of a life sentence imposed for what rights groups and supporters have described as a wrongful conviction on a bombing charge. He was widely respected among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment.
Around 140 Tibetans—including family members, monastic representatives, and residents of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s home county of Nyagchuka (Yajiang)—later gathered in Chengdu to demand return of his body.
His remains were cremated by prison authorities on July 16 against the wishes of his family
Dolkar Lhamo was “actively involved in the case of Tenzin Delek right from the day he was initially detained and sentenced,” Yonten said, adding, “She was the first one to see her brother in the jail and also the main person to appeal for his release.”
In the days following the popular Tibetan monk’s death in prison and before his cremation, Dolkar Lhamo had presented a five-point appeal to authorities calling for an explanation of the circumstances surrounding his death.
She had also submitted abstracts from China’s constitution on required procedures following the death of a prisoner belonging to a minority nationality group, Yonten said.
“But the authorities refused to accept those representations.”
Many now suspect that the cause of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death "has some connection to the prison,” the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in a July 17 statement.
“There is no evidence of any Chinese legislation that the body of a deceased prisoner cannot be taken home by their family members,” TCHRD said.
“If the prison authorities cannot explain clearly the reasons for the death, there must be an investigation of Rinpoche’s death in accordance with his family’s and followers’ wishes.”
Reported by Kalden Lodoe for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.