Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche - Tibetan Monk

The MonkTenzin Deleg Rinpoche.

Personal Background

The high-ranking Tibetan Monk and teacher of Buddhism, Tenzin Deleg Ringpoche, is well known for his courageous expression of opinion about the repressive Chinese politics in Tibet as well as his great loyalty towards Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom he met in India. He stepped in for the revitalisation of Tibetan culture and Buddhist religion in Tibet. Besides his spiritual authority he enjoys great popularity for his commitment to promote schools, orphanages, monasteries and for the improvement of infrastructure e.g. streets.

Chinese communist authorities were already attentive in 1998 and 2000, when he tried opening a monastery without the official permission. Furthermore he led the protest against the excessive deforestation in the region.

Detention and Conviction

Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche was arrested on April 7th 2002 together with four of his assistants during a police raid in the monastery of Jamyang Choekhorling in Kardze. He was accused of being involved in a bomb attack, which happened four days before on the central square of Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu.

Tenzin Deleg's assistant and former monk of his monastery, Lobsang Dhondup, was already arrested on April 3rd. Allegedly he was on the run. Both were accused of being responsible for numerous bomb attacks in the years of 2001 and 2002 in the region of Kardze (Ganzi) in Sichuan.

His trial began on November 29th 2002 before the Local Court in Kardze. On December 2nd the Ringpoche was sentenced to death with a two-year execution adjournment, which was confirmed on January 26th 2003. He was found guilty to have caused explosions and whilst that to have distributed flyers calling for separatism. It is told that he stood up after the verdict was read and loudly condemned the unfair trial. The Tenzin also protested his innocence until he was brought away to a secrete place with his mouth gagged.

Local authorities prohibited family members and other local citizens to talk to journalists about the trial. Furthermore they threatened to arrest anybody hanging up pictures of the Ringpoche.

On January 26th 2003 Tenzin Deleg's 28-year old assistant who was also sentenced to death, was executed. The broadcasting station Radio Free Asia reported on February 4th 2003, that family members of both men have been restricted by Chinese authorities to publicly speak about the case or to travel. Since Lobsang's body was not handed over to the family, the assumption that it would show torture marks is evident. On February 17th administrative representatives gave a container to the bereaved which contained the ashes of Lobsang Dhondup.

Intimidation Attempts

The then 53-year old Tenzin Deleg Ringpoche was probably a victim to maltreatment and solitary confinement before the beginning of his trial. In the eight months between his arrest and the trial Tenzin Deleg had no opportunity to communicate out of Dartsedo prison. Unconfirmed reports speak of torture while his imprisonment, being hung from the ceiling with hands and legs bonded. His brother had tried to provide him with two lawyers from Beijing but the court refused to accept. Instead the court officially assigned the defence lawyers. Unofficial sources speak of no defence lawyer being present during the verdict in December 2002.

In January 2003 Tenzin Deleg Ringpoche started a hunger strike for several days out of protest against his treatment and the violence in prison. On January 7th and 8th Tenzin Deleg quit his hunger strike because Chinese authorities had promised him an appeal procedure in the higher Provincial Court of Sichuan.

Statement of the Prisoner
According to statements of Chinese authorities Tenzin Deleg admitted the bomb attacks. But on January 18th 2003 it was possible to smuggle a tape with Tenzin Deleg's statement out of prison. Herein he said inter alia: "I was wrongly accused because I always was sincere and because the interests and the well-being of all Tibetans were at the core of my heart. Everything I did and said didn't please the Chinese at all. This is the only reason why they arrested me." Furthermore he claims: "I am totally innocent (-) I always said that we should not raise our hands against others because it is a sin (-) I neither distributed letters or flyers, nor did I secretly lay bombs. I would not even think about these things, because I have no intention whatsoever to harm or injure other people." Furthermore the monk confirmed his further commitment for Tibetan people living under Chinese government: "I will continue working for the Tibetan people and its concerns, even if it should cost my life." He continued: "I want peace in the whole world. In their cycle of existence all sensitive beings have been my parents at some time [-] If I have to stay in prison and die, may my death be of great use for all sensitive beings." Tenzin Deleg's statements were published by Radio Free Asia on January 21st 2003.

Suspension of the Death Sentence

State News Agency Xinhua confirmed on January 26th 2005 that the death sentence against Tenzin Deleg Ringpoche was converted into a life-long prison term. Currently no contact to Tenzin Deleg exists, he is imprisoned in Chuandong prison, insulated from the public. According to the ISHR this is a result of the international campaign to save his life.

The strong suspicion that Tenzin Deleg Ringpoche was not persecuted because of a violent act but because of his peaceful religious activity and his commitment to the common good exists. His imprisonment and the verdict prove of severe judicial errors. The trial was against all international standards of a fair trial.