The State Department said yesterday that they were monitoring the development of the detention of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent Tibetan lama, in Lithang (eastern Tibet).

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was arrested on April 7, 2002, under suspicion of involvement in a series of bomb blasts in the region.

Reacting to media enquiries, a State Department spokesman said that they were aware of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s case and have asked their consulate in Chengdu to monitor the situation.

Although the Chinese authorities accuse him of being involved with bomb blasts, his detention appears to be part of a government drive to clamp down on Tibetan Buddhist leaders who are popular among the Tibetan people.

Recently Gen Sonam Phuntsok, another popular lama in Karze, was blamed for the bombing of a medical clinic and given a 5-year prison sentence. Similarly Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok from the Tibetan Buddhist Institute in Larung Gar has been moved from his Institute.

All of these lamas have not only been concerned with the spiritual education of the Tibetans, but have also involved themselves in social welfare activities among the Tibetan people.