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Chinese authorities open fire on Tibetans gathered to mourn death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

July 20, 2015

Central Tibetan Administration, July 15, 2015 - Photos of Tibetans grievously injured in the indiscriminate firing by Chinese police on demonstrators expressing their grief at the death of a prominent Tibetan political prisoner are slowly trickling into exile. (photos posted at www.tibet.net)

Numerous Tibetans were injured after Chinese authorities opened fire on the thousands of Tibetans who took to the streets to mourn the death of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. At least 15 Tibetans including five elderly persons were admitted into hospitals after sustaining gunshot wounds.

The demonstrations took place in front of the local administrative office at Yothok Trolung township in Nyachuka on Monday, 13 July, a day after Chinese prison authorities notified the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche to his two sisters. The authorities have refused to elaborate on the circumstances, which led to the Tibetan lama’s death, nor did they hand over Rinpoche’s body for funerary rites.

The demonstrators were demanding the return of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s body to his family members and disciples.

Following the demonstration, a large number of security forces have been deployed in the area and the road to and from Lithang and Nyachuka was blocked to restrict movement of people.

A section of monks numbering over one hundred is simultaneously holding a sit-in protest in front of the Chuandong prison in Chengdu, demanding the release of Rinpoche’s body for last rites. The authorities have not returned the body yet.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, died under mysterious circumstances on Sunday, 12 July, while serving a life sentence in Chuandong prison in the southwestern Chinese Provincial city of Chengdu.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was wrongly accused in a bomb blast in Chengdu city. He was subsequently sentenced to death with a two year-reprieve on 2 December 2002 even though Rinpoche has maintained innocence in the allegation.

His death sentence was later commuted to life-imprisonment after a massive campaign by Tibetans in exile and international human rights groups for his immediate release.

Tibetans and human rights group maintain that the charges leveled on Rinpoche by the Chinese government were a politically-motivated fabrication to undermine his efforts towards environmental conservation, educational development and cultural preservation.

“The case of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was a culmination of a decade-long effort by Chinese authorities to curb his efforts to foster Tibetan Buddhism, his support for the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, and his work to develop Tibetan social and cultural institutions. His efforts had become a focal point for Tibetans struggling to retain their cultural identity in the face of China’s restrictive policies and its continuing persecution of individuals attempting to push the accepted boundaries of cultural and social expression,” Human Rights Watch has stated in a substantive report in 2010.

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