Brutalized Tibetan political prisoner dies after transfer to hospital without his family’s knowledge

Kunchok Jinpa, a 51-year-old tour guide. (Photo courtesy: HRW)

(, Feb17’21) – A Tibetan political prisoner has died in hospital in Tibet’s capital Lhasa on Feb 6, less than three months after he was transferred there without his family’s knowledge, said New York-based Human Rights Watch Feb 16. The group has demanded that Chinese authorities account for the death of Kunchok Jinpa, a 51-year-old tour guide, serving a 21-year sentence for reporting protests in his native region in Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) City seven years ago.

The group cited local sources as saying the victim had suffered a brain haemorrhage and was paralyzed.

Calling his death “yet another grim case of a wrongfully imprisoned Tibetan dying from mistreatment”, the group’s China director Sophie Richardson has said, “Chinese authorities responsible for arbitrary detention, torture or ill-treatment, and the death of people in their custody should be held accountable.”

The group has noted that there had been no news of Kunchok Jinpa’s whereabouts since his detention in 2013.

He was taken into custody on Nov 8, 2013. But his family got no information on his whereabouts ever since. He was later convicted for allegedly leaking state secrets for passing information to foreign media about local environmental and other protests in his region.

“His 21-year sentence is unparalleled for such an offense, and no information about his trial or conviction had been publicly available outside China until now,” the group said.

He was believed to have been moved from the regional prison at Nyethang (Nidang), near Lhasa, to a hospital in that city in Nov 2020. His family learned on Jan 29 that he was to undergo emergency treatment. Several of them then went to give blood at the hospital, but were unable to see him. He died in the hospital on Feb 6, the group said.

Kunchok Jinpa was a resident of Village No. 5 in Chaktse (Qiaze) Township in Driru (Biru), a county in Nagchu City, about 300 kilometers north of Lhasa. He was one among reportedly hundreds of Tibetans from Driru detained after a series of peaceful protests in Oct 2013 against official demands that villagers fly Chinese flags from every house.

He is believed to have provided information via social media or directly to Tibetan media outside the PRC about a protest in May 2013 against planned mining on a sacred mountain, Naklha Dzamba, together with the names of those detained for involvement in the protest.

Kunchok Jinpa, whose father’s name is Sonam Wangden and mother’sPelha, had become a monk as a child at the Gom Gonsar Monastery (Choekor Jampaling) in Driru. In Oct 1989, he travelled via Nepal to India, where he studied for about 18 months at the Changchubling Monastery in Dehradun, the seat in exile of the Drikung Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

From April 1991 until his graduation in 1996, he studied as a layman at a school run by the Tibetan exile community at Suja in Himachal Pradesh. He undertook further studies at the Higher Tibetan Studies Institute in Varanasi, and became proficient in English and Hindi, as well as Chinese and Tibetan, the group said.

He returned to Tibet in about 1998 and took up work as a tour guide.


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