(TibetanReview.net, Feb02’16) – China has sentenced to death on Jan 31 two Tibetan men for the murder in 2013 of a prominent Tibetan Buddhist leader over a back pay dispute. The victim, Akong Rinpoche, was a well-known religious figure who had founded the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West and built an international network of spiritual retreats.
The main accused Thubten Kunsal (or Tudeng Gusang) had worked at Akong’s monastery in the United Kingdom as a religious artist for nine years, and had apparently persisted on being paid over 2.7 million yuan ($415,000) as back pay for his service for those years. However, the monastery has denied owing him any money, apparently having taken his service as voluntary.
In 2013 he fatally stabbed Akong Rinpoche, his nephew and his driver after confronting him at his home in the Chinese city of Chengdu, Capital of Sichuan Province, according to a statement Jan 31 by the Chengdu People’s Intermediate Court.
Thubten and another man, Ciren Banyue (or Tsering Banjue), were given the death penalty while a third man was sentenced to three years’ prison for hiding daggers used in the killings.
The verdict, posted by the court on social media, said the murders were “brutal” and that the suspects would be “treated severely in accordance with the law”.
Britain has said in a statement that it communicated its opposition to the death penalty to Beijing.
Akong Rinpoche was born in 1939, recognized at age 2 by a search party as a lama incarnate, and entered the Dolma Lhakhang monastery before fleeing to India after China put Tibet under direct occupation rule following the brutal suppression of a popular Tibetan uprising.
He moved to Britain after several years, studied at Oxford University and co-founded the Buddhist centre in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, in 1967. He later became a British citizen. He maintained friendly relations with the Chinese government and frequently visited the country to look after charity projects. He was said to be on a fundraising trip when he was stabbed.