The ashes of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche were forcibly taken from Tibetans who were carrying the revered monk's cremated remains to his home county of Nyagchuka, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Monday.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, who 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, was cremated by prison authorities on July 16 against the wishes of his family.
Four Tibetans who stayed in the Sichuan capital, Chengdu, to receive the ashes were carrying them back to Nyagchuka (in Chinese, Yajiang) and stopped over night at a town in Jagsamka (Luding) county on July 16.
"At that time, the Chinese authorities came to them in the night and forced them to give back the remains. They even threatened to throw the ashes into the local river in Luding," Geshe Jamyang Nyima, a source in exile with connections to the monk's family, told RFA.
"We don’t know whether they actually dumped the ashes in the river or not, but it was an unfortunate incident,” he added.
The death in prison of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who was widely respected among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment, added to simmering tensions in Tibetan parts of Sichuan and beyond.
The cremation in defiance of his family's request that his remains be returned to them was followed by the detention of the sister of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and that woman’s daughter. 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 (Litang) county.
“It was extremely horrible action on the part of the Chinese authorities. Even if the body was not handed over to the relatives and students, snatching the remains of the cremated body of Rinpoche after it was handed over was unimaginable," said Geshe Jamyang Nyima.
"They should at least leave the relatives alone in peace. But his sister Dolkar Lhamo and her daughter were taken away by Lithang police from Chengdu town on July 17, and nothing has been heard about them, too. It is sheer bullying and unreasonable," he added.
Reported by Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Paul Eckert.