Former political prisoner Tashi Phuntsok, 60, has died in Lithang (in Chinese, Litang) county, a Tibetan region in Sichuan province, where the monk had staged protests against deforestation by China and suffered beatings in jail, an exile source told RFA.
“He was severely beaten while in prison and he became chronically ill after release from jail. He passed away on March 17th in Lithang county,” said Geshi Tsering Dorjee from Drepung Gongpa Monastery in southern India.
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said three of his close aides now living in exile had confirmed his death, giving the date as March 16.
“The aides were not able to give details about Tashi Phuntsok’s death except that he passed away while being taken to the hospital for treatment,” the ICT said in a statement.
Dorjee said the prison sentence that led to Phuntsok’s ill health stemmed from his arrest on April 17, 2002 for alleged involvement with noted social activist Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in a series of bomb explosions in the city of Chengdu.
“Initially, Tashi Phuntsok was arrested, sentenced to seven years, and jailed at Yakra Phuk prison in Dartsedo (Kangding),” he said.
“But after one year he was returned to his family in very poor health due to torture he sustained while in prison. He was in a near death situation when he returned.”
The ICT report said he emerged from prison so emaciated he looked like “skin over skeleton.”
Tashi Phuntso also led a protest by Tibetans in 1993 to stop deforestation by Chinese in Nyachu (Yajiang) county,’ added Dorjee.
“At that time the county police attempted to arrest him, but due to overwhelming public outcry in his support, he was let go,” he said.
Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Paul Eckert.