Security has been stepped up in of the Tibetan area of Kham, part of present-day Sichuan province, and dozens of Tibetans have been detained and beaten after peaceful demonstrations in support of the imprisoned Tibetan lama, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, a highly respected religious teacher serving a life sentence. Increased numbers of armed police and troops have been stationed in towns and villages where protests occurred – in an area that is already tense since demonstrations against Chinese rule spread across Tibet in March 2008. The movement of people in protest areas is now restricted and in one area soldiers have warned local people that they will shoot to kill if necessary.
Following peaceful protests involving hundreds of people on December 5, 2009, a group of local lamas appealed to the county government to allow local people to see Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, fearing that if this request was not granted, Tibetans in the area might “rise up in protest,” according to a Tibetan in exile who is in contact with several local Tibetans. The authorities offered some concessions as a result although it is not known if they will be implemented. At least 20 Tibetans remain in detention and according to sources in the area, all detainees were “mercilessly beaten,” leaving many injured and hospitalized.
The risks that Tibetans in Kham continue to take during a time of crackdown in Tibet are indicative of the influence and popularity of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche – among both the Tibetan community and many Chinese Buddhists – and what he represents. Before his detention in 2002 on alleged bombing charges which he denies, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche founded schools for nomad children, set up elderly people’s homes, worked with local officials to protect forests and was well-known for his efforts to preserve Tibetan culture. Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche is being held in Mianyang Prison in Sichuan and there are fears for his welfare as his health is poor. One report indicates that his life sentence may have been reduced to a fixed term sentence of 20 years, which means there is a possibility of a reduction in the sentence, but this could not be confirmed.
Update on protests in support of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche
The demonstrations in Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s home area are the latest in a series of bold representations to the authorities in support of the Tibetan lama over several years. Towards the end of November 2009, a group of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s relatives and friends traveled to Beijing to request the central government for a further review of the case. It is not known how the authorities responded to this appeal. A further Tibetan source states that having been assured by officials in Beijing that the case would be looked at, the petitioners were urged to return to Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan.
A government official confirmed that petitioners had been to Beijing and Chengdu to appeal to the authorities, but said that all of them had been “persuaded home” and “no one was detained.” (http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2009-12/490861.html, December 10).
Local people in his home area heard about the visit to Beijing, according to several sources, and decided to take action themselves on Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s behalf.
On December 5, 2009, a group of around 90 people, men and women, from various villages in Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s home area of Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan began to travel towards Nyagchuka (Chinese: Yajiang) county town in cars and on motorbikes to call for the release of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, according to several Tibetan sources. The Tibetans in the group were stopped at different points on the way, although some were able to reach the office of the county government building in Nyagchuka itself.
A Tibetan source with contacts in the area said: “They [the Tibetans] told officials that without the presence of Tulku [a reincarnate lama] Tenzin Deleg, there were more thieves, trouble makers, hunters and alcoholics in their region and it was going downhill. Without him, there was nothing the government could do to improve the situation, and so he should be released. When many of these people made their request on bended knees and with their palms joined, the officials said that it would be alright to give them permission to visit Tulku [Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche]. At that, the older people said that that was fine and made ready to return home, but the young people lay down blocking the main road, saying that if they were to be permitted to visit, they should be allowed to go that very day, because they did not believe the promise would be honored if deferred. They said that their Lama was innocent, that he had been falsely accused, that if the government had any proof that he was involved in a bombing, they should produce it. After that, many police came and beat them severely, many people were seriously injured, and the ground turned red with blood. Five people had broken arms and legs, and many of their motorcycles were trashed. They were 56-year old Lhamo Choedrup, Ashar, Dukar Tsering, Dondrup and Jinpa, all from Bardrong. One of them was said to have had his ribs broken.”
A second Tibetan source said in a Chinese language blog: “The Tibetans were beaten extremely cruelly, and there was blood on the ground and their hair was torn out, and some even had their teeth knocked out.”
Around 70 people in the group, both men and women, were detained in a newly built detention facility at Gara, approximately four kilometers from the town, according to the same source. Several hundred people from villages including Orthok, Khalo and Tségon, from Tar-ngoe, Drépadé, Gyasho, Détsa and Golo in the Nyagchu valley, and from villages nearby the county town then gathered in their support outside the county government building, calling for Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s release, according to the same source, backed up by other Tibetan sources. These Tibetans sat outside all night, some outside the police station, despite the severe cold. The same Tibetan source said: “Their main demand was to meet Tulku Tenzin Deleg in person, wherever he is, and for the unjust life sentence passed on him to be justly reviewed.”
Tibetans in the area say that there should be a new hearing on the basis of three points: that there is no proof against Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, that he refuses to admit any guilt, and that he was framed by an official plot. A petition presented to the authorities and signed by thousands of Tibetans, often with a thumbprint, in Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s home area, concludes: “There does not exist any proof with regards to A’an Zhaxi’s [Chinese transliteration for Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s lay name] sentence, there exists no confession, it is only an act of retaliation of the local authorities against A’an Zhaxi. It is a set-up, a frame-up and an entirely fabricated case. If you are out to condemn somebody, you can always find a charge. If this case is not solved justly, our Zirui region, A’an Zhaxi’s relatives and all the people who follow him, regardless of whether the poor turn into beggars, whether men or women, they will definitely not stop appealing for justice. Thus, we sincerely hope that the impartial law of the central government will make its way into this place which is shrouded in the dense fog of conspiracy.” (The full text of the petition, translated into English by the blog High Peaks Pure Earth is included below).
Locals interviewed on the telephone by Associated Press on December 7, 2009, confirmed that the protests had taken place, and confirmed that there was a greatly increased paramilitary police presence in the area.
Sources who spoke to Tibet Post, a newspaper run by Tibetan exiles in India, said residents of the area insisted they were not “anti-China” and had no political agenda, but without Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s guidance and authority in the community, people were “like children without parents.”
Imprisoned in December 2002, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche was convicted amid concerns he had been tortured to extort a confession and following a trial that was condemned around the world for falling far short of minimum fair trial standards. Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment following a statutory two-year period of suspension, but his co-defendant, Lobsang Dhondup, was executed in early 2003 moments after his appeal was rejected.
Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche ‘framed’ according to petition
The petition in support of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche dated July 15, 2009 asserts that he was framed by local authorities because his work and his standing in the community were sidelining local government authority, as well as impeding deeply unpopular government-backed enterprises such as large-scale logging operations in the area. The petition also recalls how prior to his eventual detention in April 2002, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche had twice gone into hiding fearing he was about to be detained by aggrieved local officials. The petition, reproduced below, details the respect and reverence that Tibetans in Nyagchuka and the surrounding areas have for Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, in particular for his religious and social teachings in the community including his efforts to build and rebuild monasteries destroyed prior to and during the Cultural Revolution.
Scans of several pages apparently taken from the petition – or possibly from one or several more petitions circulating in support of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche – have been posted on the Internet. The images show pages in handwritten Tibetan headed with “Tenzin Deleg is innocent. We hope to appeal,” beneath which are columns of thumbprints followed by handwritten statements clearly identifying individuals and their families.
Attempts to convince authorities at the local, provincial and national levels to re-examine the case against Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche have been ongoing since at least April-May 2007, when according to sources there was a small demonstration by people in Lithang demanding permission to visit him in prison. It is understood that previously, no one had been allowed to visit him in prison at all – at that point he had already spent over five years behind bars. People’s demands to visit him were initially refused, although members of his family were eventually allowed to see him.
In April 2007, according to a Tibetan source with contacts in the area, nine women from Horlung township in Nyakchuka county, led by Apa Pumo, staged a sit-in outside the government office, and presented a petition. Following this action several of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s relatives were allowed to visit him. Government officials had told the Tibetan lama that no one in the community or his relatives had wanted to see him. According to Tibetan sources, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche re-affirmed his innocence and said that he had been told to denounce the Dalai Lama.
In July 2007, several thousand local people signed a further petition to be taken to Beijing in an attempt to lodge an appeal against Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s sentence. A small Tibetan group planning to take the petition to Beijing was stopped and detained, which led to a further protest by people in Horlung township for their release. According to the same Tibetan source, “They said that Tenzin Deleg was a lama who had the people’s trust, that he could not possibly have planted a bomb, he had been falsely accused, and the matter had to be rectified.” Armed police broke up the protest and later there was a buildup of troops in the area. Local people were told by officials that if there was a popular protest, it would be crushed.
The Tibetan woman involved in the protest, Apa Pumo, was held for several weeks and became very ill in prison.
Following the latest protests, last weekend a group of local Tibetan lamas appealed to the county government to grant the people’s wish to meet Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche. The local authorities apparently stated that some Tibetans would be allowed to visit Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche each month, that those wounded during the demonstrations would be treated, and that compensation would be given for motorbikes that had been destroyed during the breaking up of the protests by police. According to the Tibetan source in contact with people in the area, among around 20 Tibetans still in detention are Tsering Dondrup, Sherab Drolma, Tenzin Trinlé, Tsering, Losang Wangchuk, Jinpa and Jamdro.
Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche tortured while in detention
Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche and at least four other monks were taken into detention on April 7, 2002, four days after Lobsang Dhondup’s detention. According to several reports, the PRC authorities denied both men access to visitors and legal counsel, and subjected them to coercive methods of interrogation including beating and torture during the “investigation” phase of detention at the Kangding Police Detention Center. According to Tibetan sources, among the torture he endured was being suspended in the ‘airplane’ position where a person is hung from the ceiling or door frame by their arms extended out behind them.
The PRC authorities had assured a U.S. government delegation headed by Lorne Craner, the then Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, that the Supreme People’s Court would undertake a ‘lengthy’ judicial review of Lobsang Dhondup’s death sentence. But instead Lobsang Dhondup was executed soon after his death sentence was approved by a Sunday session of the Sichuan Province High People’s Court.
Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche maintains that he did not confess to any of the charges against him. During his sentencing, which was attended by two of his family members, he reportedly declared the trial unfair, rejected all charges against him, and proclaimed his innocence before being removed from the court. In a tape smuggled out of prison in January 2003, whilst he was awaiting the outcome of an appeal, he said, “Whatever [the authorities] do and say, I am completely innocent. I was wrongly accused because I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetans. The Chinese did not like what I did and what I said. That is the only reason why I was arrested. I have always said we should not raise our hands at others. It is sinful. I have neither distributed letters or pamphlets nor planned bombs secretly. I have never even thought of such things and I have no intention to hurt others.” Following the trial, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche appealed his conviction.
Police apprehended Tibetan residents of Nyagchuka County who were raising funds to pay for Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s legal defense or who were otherwise seen as being closely linked to Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche. The Chinese authorities have not provided any information about the evidence underlying the convictions or the manner in which such evidence was obtained.
When Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche was detained, tried and convicted over the six-month period from April to December 2002, a member of the PRC’s eight person Politburo, Zhou Yongkang, was serving as Party Secretary of Sichuan province. Zhou went on to serve as Minister for Public Security, and he currently chairs the Central Politics and Law Committee, the main Party instrument for overseeing implementation of the law throughout the PRC.
A full translation of the petition signed by local people in support of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche is at http://www.highpeakspureearth.com/2009/12/from-woesers-blog-people-of-ya… and included in full below. The original was in Tibetan and translated into Chinese, and a copy can be viewed on the blog http://woeser.middle-way.net/2009/12/blog-post_9787.html.
We Do Not Recognise the Verdict Against A’an Zhaxi: We Want to Have a New Hearing with Regards to the Charges in the Explosion Case
A’an Zhaxi (A-ngag Tashi, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche) was born in 1949 in the village of Degu, Lithang County in the Ganzi Prefecture. In 1983 he was identified as the reincarnation of the Yajiang County’s Orthok Monastery’s Lama Adong Phuntsok. Starting in 1987, he constructed Orthok Monastery, Nyagchu Jamyang Choekhorling, Tsochu Ganden Choeling, Golog Tashikyil, Tsun-gon Dechen Choeling and many more monasteries. A’an Zhaxi always taught people not to kill, not to steal, not to tell lies, not to shoot animals, not to gamble, and he also formulated religious tenets. This embodied a great benefit for the people in the monasteries and in the area. Hence, in comparison to other Lamas, the local people particularly trusted and respected A’an Zhaxi.
On 7 April 2002, A’an Zhaxi was arrested by Ganzi Yajiang County Police accused of being one of the hidden instigators responsible for the explosion on Tianfu Square in Chengdu. On 2 December 2002, Ganzi Prefecture’s Intermediate People’s Court sentenced A’an Zhaxi to death with the sentence suspended for two years. Two years later, some said that his sentence had already been changed to life imprisonment and others said that there was no sentence at all, opinions were widely divided. But his family and religious followers had never seen the official court verdict or any notice concerning his case. Hence, there was no way of verifying the details.
The case against Lobsang Dhondup installing the explosives on Tianfu Square and A’an Zhaxi being the wirepuller is a set-up, it is an act of retaliation by the evil officials and lacks any proof or confessions.
Nowhere and at no time have there been any witnesses confirming that A’an Zhaxi actually worked out a plan for Lobsang Dhondup to set off an explosion, and neither has there been any witness who has heard anything about such plans. Moreover, Lobsang Dhondup has never admitted or confessed that A’an Zhaxi worked out a plan for him to set off the explosion. The reason for this is: one of Lobsang Dhondup’s fellow prisoners, who used to share a cell with him, recalls Lobsang Dhondup once saying to him that A’an Zhaxi has never planned anything for him and he has also never officially declared or confessed that A’an Zhaxi had worked out a plan for him. The reason why Yajiang County accused A’an Zhaxi is because they say that he excavated a cave to store the explosives and they also came up with groundless accusations such as that he is not a real monk but they have not provided the people with anything proving his guilt.
A’an Zhaxi himself refuses to admit his guilt Although there have been many false stories claiming that A’an Zhaxi has already candidly confessed everything, it is still rather obvious that he does not at all admit his guilt. On 2 December 2002, when the Ganzi Prefecture’s Intermediate People’s Court spoke the verdict, in the presence of all, A’an Zhaxi shouted out “don’t say that I set up explosives, I have never ever thought about this sort of thing”. Afterwards, A’an Zhaxi wrote in a letter to Zirui’s people and his close relatives: “I am not guilty, please appeal for justice for me”. Moreover, at the end of 2008, when A’an Zhaxi’s younger sister Dolkar Lhamo together with Zengtar and Tsering Dekyi went to pay him a visit in prison, they also heard him say: “I absolutely did not work out any plans; I don’t even know of any explosion, it would be very kind if you can appeal for justice.” Especially on 11 July 2009, when Apapumu went to see A’an Zhaxi, he said: “I am not responsible for these explosions or any other illegal actions, they have pinned this on me, I have always taught people that one should not harm any life, not even that of an ant, how could I then possibly be responsible for such an action? If it is possible to appeal, there is hope that I may be cleared of all charges. When you leave please go to Zirui for me, tell my relatives and all people of the six Orthok groups, tell everyone that I hope to be cleared of all charges. So, you are in charge, call all people together and do everything possible to help me overturn the verdict.
Officials plotted to frame Even before the verdict in the case of the explosion, Ganzi Prefecture and Yajiang County had often arrested A’an Zhaxi. For example, from 1998 to 2000, twice in a row A’an Zhaxi had to flee to the remote mountains to take refuge. In the very beginning when he first established Orthok Monastery and Nyagchu Jamyang Choekhorling, some officials of the Ganzi Prefecture, Yajiang County and Lithang District deliberately made things difficult and obstructed the construction of the monasteries, but because A’an Zhaxi went directly to the great Panchen Lama for help, the prefecture, county and district authorities had to give permission. Also, during the time when A’an Zhaxi fled to the mountains for refuge, thousands of people signed or put their fingerprints on a petition to the authorities to prove his innocence. The appeal went all the way to the county, even to the central government and in the end the authorities’ attempt to arrest him failed. When A’an Zhaxi returned to his home town he was happily welcomed by thousands of people, who could not be pushed off the stage by local authorities. Through this, mutual apprehension sharpened by the day, the local authorities harboured more and more resentment against A’an Zhaxi, he became the thorn in their side waiting for an opportunity to retaliate. One 2 April 2002, they then arrested A’an Zhaxi accusing him of being the mastermind behind the explosions on Tianfu Square in Chengdu, but it is obvious that this is not true.
In conclusion, there does not exist any proof with regards to A’an Zhaxi’s sentence, there exists no confession, it is only an act of retaliation of the local authorities against A’an Zhaxi. It is a set-up, a frame-up and an entirely fabricated case. If you are out to condemn somebody, you can always find a charge. If this case is not solved justly, our Zirui region, A’an Zhaxi’s relatives and all the people who follow him, regardless of whether the poor turn into beggars, whether men or women, they will definitely not stop appealing for justice. Thus, we sincerely hope that the impartial law of the central government will make its way into this place which is shrouded in the dense fog of conspiracy.
15 July 2009
By the people of Yajiang County, Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province