On 12 July 2015, the Chinese authorities announced the highly revered Tibetan leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in prison. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had been imprisoned on false charges and was known to be seriously ill. The Chinese government failed to respond to requests for medical parole first made in 2014.
The exact circumstances of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death are not yet clear, however it is known he was in seriously ill-health, suffering from a heart condition and high blood pressure.
According to Radio Free Asia, the prison authorities contacted Tenzin Delek’s relatives to inform them his condition had worsened. However, by the time they arrived he had already died. The report indicated that the authorities have refused to hand over his body to family members.
Last year, Tenzin Delek’s family applied for medical parole for which he was eligible under Chinese law, as he was chronically unwell and had served at least seven years of his sentence. Despite international calls for medical parole, including by the UK government, his family never received a reply to their legitimate application. Since making the request, the family had been denied visitation rights.
Tibet Society condemns the death in prison of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and urges the Chinese authorities to release the body immediately to Tenzin Delek’s family. Tibet Society calls on the Chinese government to allow an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death and to ensure the fair and humane treatment of all its prisoners.
In a press release issued by Tibet Society, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, Fabian Hamilton MP, said, “The death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche exposes the true nature of the Chinese government’s attitude towards Tibet. China has disregarded the concerns of the international community over Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, flouted universally-accepted norms on legal processes during his case and refused medical parole despite his serious illness. Now China has his blood on its hands.”
Tibet Society has passed on the information to the UK Foreign Office and requested a statement from the UK government condemning the death.
Further reading: RFA I Reuters I Tibet Society press release
London vigils for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche
Vigils in memory of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche have been organised in London for the evenings of 13 and 14 July. They will take place outside the Chinese Embassy from 6pm – 8pm on both evenings. All welcome.
Dates: Monday 13 & Tuesday 14 July
Times: 6pm – 8pm (both evevnings)
Venue: Chinese Embassy, 49-51 Portland Place, London W1B 1JL.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was serving a life sentence on false charges of causing explosions, with the only evidence presented at his trial extracted by torture. He was arrested on 3 April 2002 and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve on 2 December 2002. On 26 January 2003, at an appeal hearing, the sentence was upheld and his colleague, Lobsang Dhondup who had been sentenced to death with no reprieve was executed. In 2005, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche consistently protested his innocence. Whilst waiting for the appeal hearing in 2003, he said, “I am completely innocent… I have always said we should not raise our hand at others. It is sinful… I have neither distributed letters or pamphlets nor planted bombs secretly. I have never even thought of such things, and I have no intention to hurt others.”
Tenzin Delek suffered from poor health since his arrest, which was exacerbated by the torture and beatings he received whilst in detention. He suffered from a serious heart condition, high blood pressure, dizziness and problems with his feet. In April 2014, he was said to be very ill-health and had not been receiving medication or allowed proper medical treatment. During a rare visit, a doctor said he believed Tenzin Delek Rinpoche needed surgery for his heart condition.
An official application for medical parole was made by Tenzin Delek’s family in 2014. He was eligible for medical parole under Chinese law, as he was chronically unwell and had served over seven years of his prisonsentence. The authorities never responded to the application and denied his family visitation rights.