Tibetan followers of a popular Buddhist monk who died in unexplained circumstances in a Chinese prison on Sunday are divided over where his body should be cremated if and when authorities return his remains, sources said.
Around 140 people have now arrived in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu to demand the return of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s body, a Tibetan monk living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.
Several delegations of supporters are now present in Chengdu, including family members, monastic representatives, villagers from Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s home county, and a separate group of county residents who arrived early on Tuesday, Geshe Lobsang Yonten said, citing contacts in the region.
“All of them are demanding the release of the body,” Yonten said.
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 popular among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment.
Following clashes between villagers and police on Monday in Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s native Nyagchuka (in Chinese, Yajiang) county, Chinese authorities gave permission for monastery officials to travel to Chengdu to cremate the remains, Yonten said.
“But other delegates are saying that because they hadn’t seen their teacher for 13 years, Rinpoche’s body should be brought back to his native place for traditional funeral rites,” he said.
'Not even the ashes'
Chinese authorities have now refused to allow the cremation to take place in Chengdu, Geshe Tenpa, a close student of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, told RFA on Wednesday.
“The Chinese are saying that the delegates will not be allowed even to see the body, and that the Chinese themselves will handle the cremation while the Tibetans stay back at a distance to say prayers,” he said, citing local sources.
Noting that at least 15 Tibetans were injured in Monday’s clash in Nyagchuka, Tenpa appealed in an RFA broadcast to local Tibetans to remain calm, urging them not to provoke “further repression by the Chinese.”
Chinese officials have now warned Tibetan delegates in Chengdu that if they cause trouble, authorities will cremate Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s body themselves at a time and place of their own choosing, Tenpa said. “And not even the ashes of the body will be handed to them.”
Two provincial-level officials are expected to settle the issue soon, Tenpa told RFA his sources said.
Reported by Lobsang Choephel, Kunsang Tenzin, and Sonam Singeri. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.