Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have freed the sister and niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a popular Tibetan monk who died last month in unexplained circumstances in a Chinese prison, after holding the two women in custody in a secret location for almost two weeks, a rights group said on Friday.
Dolkar Lhamo, 55, and Nyima Lhamo, aged about 25, were released on July 30 and sent back to their hometown in Nyagchuka (in Chinese, Yajiang) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) said in an Aug. 7 statement.
“No charges were filed against them,” TCHRD said, citing contacts in the region.
No word was immediately available regarding the women’s physical or psychological condition, TCHRD said.
“However, family and friends living outside Tibet fear that both women had been subjected to beatings, intimidation and possibly torture during the almost two-week detention,” the rights group said.
Lhamo and her daughter were detained in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu at about 8:00 a.m. on July 17 on suspicion of having shared information related to the death of the older woman’s brother, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, with contacts outside the area.
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.
His remains were cremated by prison authorities on July 16 against the wishes of his family.
Chinese authorities have now imposed communications blocks in the Nyagchuka area and confiscated family members’ mobile phones, TCHRD said, adding that police have forbidden relatives from calling meetings to discuss the situation.
“Chinese troops have also been deployed at Rinpoche’s monasteries to stop lay Tibetans from attending prayer sessions” held in the dead monk’s honor, the rights group said.
Before being detained, Dolkar Lhamo had appealed to authorities for an explanation of the circumstances surrounding Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death, also submitting abstracts from China’s constitution on required procedures following the death of a prisoner belonging to a minority national group, one source told RFA in an earlier report.
“But the authorities refused to accept those representations,” the source said.
In its statement Friday, TCHRD called for an “independent and impartial investigation” into the death of the widely respected monk.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has a legal obligation to carry out the investigation to determine whether the death was caused intentionally or by negligence,” TCHRD said.
“TCHRD urges the local Chinese authorities to lift the communications ban on Rinpoche’s family members and ease restrictions on local Tibetans and the monasteries founded by Rinpoche.”