Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who was sentenced to death in a suspect trial last month in connection with an explosion, has begun a hunger strike in protest of his treatment in detention, which sources say has included torture.

Sources say his appeal was scheduled to be heard on January 10.*

(*There have been many conflicting reports about the legal cases and facts are difficult to confirm because of the lack of transparency in China’s judicial process [see note on Chinese death sentence law below for more]. ICT will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates.)

Rinpoche reportedly began the hunger strike on January 6, 2003, saying that Chinese authorities are denying him a fair trial, according to a well-informed source. He is being detained in Dhartsedo (Ch: Kanding) in Kanze Autonomous Prefecture in present-day Sichuan Province.

The source, who is in touch with people close to the case, said that the hunger strike began after two officials from the Central Government visited Tenzin Delek on January 6, 2003.

Rinpoche is reported to have told the two officials that he did not wish to respond to their queries, as they were not interested in finding out the truth.

News of the hunger strike follows news last week that Tenzin Delek was denied representation by Zhang Sizhi and Li Huigeng, two prominent lawyers from Beijing.

The source also said that Rinpoche has experienced physical torture while in detention.

While this information has not been independently corroborated, ICT believes the source to be credible and in direct communication with people close to the case.

The scheduling of the appeal hearing on January 10, 2003, was also confirmed by Chinese writer Wang Lixiong in a January 8 interview with Radio Free Asia.

Wang has been working to provide legal support to Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

The source also said there was no information on the whereabouts of three other monks who were arrested along with Rinpoche in April of 2002. The monks, Tsultrim Dhargye, 36, Tadrin Tsering, 33, and Ashar Dhargye, 40, are believed to have been working with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. A fourth monk, Pasang, was subsequently released.

Note on Chinese law regarding the death sentence:

If the law is correctly applied, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche should not face immediate danger. Concerning Lobsang Dhondup, Article 48 of Chinese criminal law should apply, which means that the Supreme People’s Court has to verify and approve the sentencing.

Criminal Law Of The People’s Republic Of China

Article 48 – The death penalty shall only be applied to criminals who have committed extremely serious crimes. If the immediate execution of a criminal punishable by death is not deemed necessary, a two-year suspension of execution may be pronounced simultaneously with the imposition of the death sentence.

All death sentences, except for those that according to law should be decided by the Supreme People’s Court, shall be submitted to the Supreme People’s Court for verification and approval. Death sentences with a suspension of execution may be decided or verified and approved by a Higher People’s Court.

Article 49 – The death penalty shall not be imposed on persons who have not reached the age of 18 at the time the crime is committed or on women who are pregnant at the time of trial.

Article 50 – Anyone who is sentenced to death with a suspension of execution commits no intentional crime during the period of suspension, his punishment shall be commuted to life imprisonment upon the expiration of the two-year period; if he has truly performed major meritorious service, his punishment shall be commuted to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 15 years but not more than 20 years upon the expiration of the two-year period; if it is verified that he has committed an intentional crime, the death penalty shall be executed upon verification and approval of the Supreme People’s Court.

Article 51 – The term of suspension of execution of a death penalty shall be counted from the date the judgment becomes final. The term of a fixed-term imprisonment that is commuted from a death penalty with suspension of execution shall be counted from the date the suspension of execution expires.