Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

A prominent and well-respected Tibetan lama, Trulku Tenzin Delek (a.k.a: Angag Tashi or Ven. Tenzin Delek), and his attendant Lobsang Dhondup were sentenced to death by a Chinese court on December 2nd and face execution for charges of involvement in an April bomb blast that injured several people, according to the Sichuan People’s Daily and reports from Tibet.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported today that Lobsang Dhondup was sentenced to immediate death penalty. Chinese criminal Law grants defendants with a right to appeal within ten days of sentence but success of appeals are almost never successful.

Trulku Tenzin Delek was sentenced to death with a suspension of two years. However, such sentences can be commuted to life in prison.

“We have no independent verification or reason to believe that these were fair trial proceedings, nor that these sentences were not politically motivated,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

TCHRD reported that Trulku accused the court of false allegations and unfair trial proceedings. When he reportedly shouted “Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” Chinese security officials rushed into the courtroom, gagged his mouth with a piece of cloth and dragged him away into an inner room within the court.

At the hearing, held Monday at Kandze Intermediate People’s Court in Kandze (known locally as Karze) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, the two Tibetans were charged with alleged involvement in a bomb blast incident on April 3 in the city’s main square (Tianfu) in Chengdu, according to the TCHRD report. Another charge leveled against the two was “engaging in splittist activities.”

The Chinese government-run Sichuan People’s Daily said on December 3rd that police captured Lobsang Dhondup as he tried to flee after a blast that injured several people on April 3 in a square in the Sichuan city of Chengdu and that a local paper reported that Chinese police found pro-independence leaflets scattered at the scene.

Trulku Tenzin Delek (“Trulku,” is an honorific Buddhist title for a reincarnated lama) is a highly respected senior teacher from Lithang County in Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture He was taken into custody on the night of April 7, 2002, along with Lobsang Dhondup and three other attendants and was held incommunicado for eight months until the day of the trial, according to TCHRD.

In a statement released this afternoon, Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, urged the international community “to intervene in the matter and to ask the Chinese authorities to halt the implementation of the sentence and to provide these Tibetans a fair trial, guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution.”

“Given the background of Trulku Tenzin Delek,” the statement continued, “the authorities seem to be using uncorroborated charges to clamp down on people who work for Tibetan religion, culture and society.”

Although the Chinese authorities accused him of being involved with bomb blasts, many believe that Trulku Tenzin Delek’s detention has been part of a clamp down by Chinese authorities on Tibetan Buddhist leaders who are popular among the Tibetan people.

Recently Sonam Phuntsok, another popular lama in Kandze, was blamed for the bombing of a medical clinic and given a 5-year prison sentence. Similarly, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, a very popular abbot from the Tibetan Buddhist Institute in Larung Gar, has been under restriction since Chinese authorities forced thousands of monks and nuns from Larung Gar last spring.

One connection among these lamas is that have not only focused on spiritual education have also involved themselves in social welfare among the Tibetan people.

This tightening of repression comes at a time when the Chinese government is sweepingly branding political activities as acts of terrorism following the September 11 incident.

Amendments to the Chinese Criminal Law adopted in December 2001 place severe punishments for those who “organize or lead a terrorist organization” from three years to ten years’ imprisonment to between ten years and life (article 120 of the Criminal Law). The term “terrorist organization” is not defined thereby allowing a broad and ambiguous range of interpretation including non-violent political activities.

The timing of these arrests one week before the upcoming U.S.-China bilateral human rights dialogue raises serious doubts about the sincerity of the Chinese in engaging in that diaglogue.

ICT has urged the U.S. delegation to the human rights dialogue to take immediate action on this matter.