In April 2002 Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Lobsang Dhondup were arrested and charged with involvement in a series of explosions in Sichuan Province. They were held incommunicado until their December 2002 trial, where they were convicted of “conspiring to cause a series of explosions” and “incitement to separatism,” and sentenced to death. On January 26, 2003, the Sichuan Provincial Court rejected Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s appeal of his suspended death sentence. Lobsang Dhondup was executed the same day. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is reported to be in poor health as a result of torture and prolonged hunger strikes.
The circumstances surrounding this case strongly suggest that the prosecution of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is politically motivated. He is a popular religious leader in the local community who is known for his dedication to the Dalai Lama and for his community-oriented work, such as building monasteries, schools and health clinics in poor Tibetan areas. He is approximately 50 years old and is a reincarnation of an abbot from Lithang in eastern Tibet.
To date, the Chinese authorities have not produced any credible evidence of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s involvement in the explosions, and the prosecutions have not met minimum standards of due process. On January 18, a smuggled tape made by Tenzin Delek Rinpoche asserted, “Whatever the authorities do and say, I am innocent.”
As recently as one week before the execution of Lobsang Dhondup, the Chinese government assured American and European officials that there would be a lengthy and careful review of these cases, including a review by the Supreme People’s Court, prior to the sentences being carried out. This review did not take place.
At least two other people remain in custody and two missing in connection with this case.
Tashi Phuntsok, a monk from Jamyang Choekhorling Monastery, was in a hospital being treated for tuberculosis when he was arrested in April 2002. He has been sentenced to seven years in prison, but no information is available about his current condition, the charges against him, or where he is being held. Due to his poor condition at the time of arrest, there remains serious concern for his health and his access to medical treatment. The second person, Tabo, is reportedly being held for passing information about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s case to foreign journalists. He is being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location.
Two monks, Passang and Choetsom, remain missing. Both were reportedly interrogated and beaten by Chinese authorities in April 2002.
An elderly man named Tserang Dhondrup (also known as Jortse), was arrested in May 2002, and sentenced to five years in prison. In 2000 he collected thousands of signatures on a petition in support of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. He is reported to have serious trouble seeing and has lost movement and flexibility in both legs as a result of being in close confinement. Tserang is in his late sixties or early seventies and was in good health at the time he was detained. He was released on July 11, 2003, however few details about the conditions of his detention or release are known.
Together with the 2001 large-scale demolition at Larung Gar (Serthar) and Yachen Gar monastic compounds, the arrests of organizers of religious ceremonies in Kardze Township and other prominent Tibetan Buddhist figures such as Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, the prosecution of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and his followers points to a growing crackdown in the Kardze region.