A highly respected Tibetan Buddhist monk who had championed the rights of Tibetans died on Sunday after allegedly undergoing torture in prison by Chinese authorities in western China's Qinghai Province.
Geshe Tsultrim Gyatso, who was 51, succumbed to injuries sustained in prison after his arrest in the Tsolho (in Chinese, Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in July 2011, according to Beijing-based Tibetan writer Woeser.
Quoting local sources, Woeser told RFA that Gyatso was incapacitated and looked frail as the authorities handed him over to his family a few days ago following hospitalization.
"At the end of December, he was taken to a local hospital, owing to severe torture sustained in prison," Woeser said.
"Just a few days ago, the local hospital returned him to his family. He was physically incapacitated and frail due to maltreatment in prison. He passed away at home on Jan. 22."
When contacted, Chinese police in Qinghai told RFA they were not aware of Gyatso's case and were not responsible for his death.
"We are not responsible for a prisoner's death which occurred outside the prison. We have handled many cases of detention and release [and are] not aware of this particular case," a police staff said.
Chinese police had thrown Gyatso into a prison in Qinghai province's Tsoshar (in Chinese, Haidong) prefecture after arresting him in July last year while he lectured at a school in Tsolho's Trika (in Chinese, Guide) county.
Woeser said Gyatso had been placed on a "suspect" list by Chinese authorities after his return from the 2006 Kalachakra Buddhist ritual in India presided over by Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
He had also given speeches and taken part in a peaceful protest in March 2008 along with 60 monks at a monastery where they raised slogans calling for a free Tibet and displayed portraits of the Dalai Lama.
Gyatso had also played a "pivotal" role in the preservation and protection of the Tibetan language and culture, she said.
His death came amid a Chinese security crackdown in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan-populated areas in Chinese provinces.
Sixteen Tibetans, mostly monks, have self-immolated since March last year to protest Beijing's rule and call for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
A seventeenth, named Tapey, set himself ablaze in 2009.
Tensions in the Tibet Autonomous Region and in Tibetan-populated areas in China's provinces have not subsided since anti-China protests swept through the Tibetan Plateau in March 2008.
Chinese authorities have blamed the Dalai Lama for the tense situation, saying he is encouraging the self-immolations, which run contrary to Buddhist teachings.
But the Dalai Lama blamed China's "ruthless and illogical" policy toward Tibet.
He called on the Chinese government to change its "repressive" policies in Tibet, citing the crackdown on monasteries and policies curtailing the use of the Tibetan language.
Reported by Lobsang Choephel for RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.