WASHINGTON—Hundreds of Tibetans staged a protest earlier this month in support of jailed monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, sources in the Kham region of China's Sichuan province said.
“On July 23 several hundred local women and youngsters from the nomadic community of Nyachukha county under Karze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture set up a human blockade on the main highways in the area," a caller from Kham told RFA's Tibetan service. "They demanded that Tenzin Delek be released since he was innocent."
The blockades have since been cleared, sources in the region said.
The caller said the protests were sparked after a dedication ceremony for a new monastery building was interrupted by Chinese officials objecting to the placing of a portrait of Tenzin Delek, who built the monastery in question.
On July 23 several hundred local women and youngsters from the nomadic community of Nyachukha county under Ganzi Prefecture put a human blockade on the main highways in the area.
"This action of the Chinese officials was witnessed by the Tibetan nomadic crowd present at the ceremony," the caller said. "They expressed their resentment at these Chinese actions. So the portrait of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was not allowed to be placed on the throne."
The nomadic community had already converged on Nyachukha (in Chinese, Yajing) county on July 18 for the annual horse-racing festival.
The day after the ceremony, Chinese officials threatened two women supporters of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche with detention, and a threat to their lives, if they continued their campaign for him, the sources said.
"In spite of Chinese threats, these two ladies collected a huge rally of local Tibetans and asked the public whether they had support and respect for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. All shouted loud and clear and raised their hands in support of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche," the caller said.
"They also responded in unison that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was wrongly convicted and he is innocent. The two ladies also asked the rally whether they believed in what the Chinese officials alleged about the storage of explosives in trenches in the compound of Nalanda Monastery of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's Nalanda monastery. All shouted that it was wrong," the caller said.
An officer on duty at the Nyachakha county police station in Kham confirmed that a protest had taken place. "The local people's movement has come to an end," he said.
But he declined to give further details. "If you want to know more, call tomorrow," the officer said.
Police who arrived at the scene accused the protesters of "ulterior motives," saying they were insincere about Tenzin Delek and were seeking to cause trouble.
They detained 10 people, releasing eight of them on July 29. The two women who organized the campaign, Abai Bomo and Wudo [eds: one name], both in their 50s, remain in detention, sources said.
Local residents who tried to join the campaign to free the monk were also prevented from leaving the area.
"On July 23, a group of 20 local Tibetans tried to leave for Dartsedo (in Chinese, Kanding) to appeal for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s release, but they were apprehended on the way," the Kham caller said.
Many Tibetans were detained after the story of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s arrest and trial was leaked to the media in late 2002 and early 2003.
The Sichuan Provincial People’s High Court sentenced Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, in his 50s, to life imprisonment on Jan. 26, 2005, after a prolonged international campaign to prevent his execution for an alleged bomb plot in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu.
In Jan. 2003, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche made an audiotape that was smuggled out of prison to RFA’s Tibetan service, in which he reiterated his claims of innocence.
Another man, Lobsang Dhondup, was sentenced to death in the same case and executed on Jan. 26, 2003.
Original reporting in Kham by Lobsang. Translated by Karma Dorjee. RFA Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.