Two prominent Chinese lawyers, Zhang Sizhi and Li Huigeng, who were preparing to defend Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (aka A’an Zhaxi), were told that Rinpoche would be represented by two local lawyers from Karze (Ch: Ganzi) Prefecture, according to Wang Lixiong, a Chinese historian and intellectual. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was sentenced to death on December 2, 2002, with a two-year reprieve.

In a December 31, 2002, report posted on the Chinese-language website Duowei (“Diverse Perspectives”), Wang said that Zhang and Li were preparing to leave for Dhartsedo (Ch: Kangding) in Sichuan Province, where Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is imprisoned, when Judge Wang Jinghong of the Sichuan Provincial Court informed them on December 29 that their services were not needed.

Rinpoche’s brother, Tsering Lolo, requested that Zhang and Li defend the prominent Tibetan lama. Judge Wang told them that two local lawyers had already submitted the defense documents.

Zhang and Li defended Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng in 1995. In 1991, Zhang had also defended Wang Juntao, another Chinese dissident.

On December 27, 2002, Li telephoned Judge Wang about their intention to defend Tenzin Delek and sought information about travel facilities from Chengdu to Dhartsedo. They also discussed arrangements for a translator for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

Judge Wang suggested that they find a local translator, as Tibetans from Beijing or Chengdu might not necessarily comprehend the local dialect. At that time Judge Wang made no mention about the local lawyers allegedly hired by Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

Wang Lixiong believes that the abrupt development may be a result of pressure on Judge Wang from Sichuan Provincial authorities to stop the two Beijing lawyers from acting on behalf of Rinpoche.

Only lawyers outside of Sichuan could render a fair defense, Wang believes, as they would be beyond the control of provincial authorities.

The two local lawyers would be unlikely to have the capability or inclination to mount a vigorous defense since they reside within Karze Prefecture and are dependent on prefecture authorities, Wang’s report said.

Wang therefore suspects that Rinpoche will not receive a fair trial on his appeal.

Judge Wang claims the two local lawyers were hired at the direct request of Tenzin Delek. However, there is no way to confirm whether Tenzin Delek had really hired them, the report said.

It was also reported that officials visited Tsering Lolo’s residence in Lithang County on December 27, 2002, and threatened him for seeking help of the lawyers from Beijing.

On December 28, Wang Lixiong and some of the people who had submitted a joint petition on behalf of Rinpoche met Zhang and Li and discussed further arrangements.

Wang said there would be two benefits of those lawyers working on behalf of Rinpoche: first, to show to the world that the trial has been a fair one; and secondly, to show Tibetans that there are sympathetic Chinese concerned about Tibetans.

Zhang Sizhi, Li Huigeng, and Tsering Lolo have petitioned the Sichuan Provincial High Court on their case and are awaiting a verdict.

A Sichuan court official told Agence France Presse (AFP) on December 13, 2002, that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Lobsang Dhondup, had appealed their death sentences. The two were charged in connection with a bomb explosion.