China cremates body of prison-deceased prominent Tibetan lama, refusing release for religious funeral  

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, had died in Chuandong Prison in Dazhou County on Jul 12. (Photo courtesy: RFA)
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, had died in Chuandong Prison in Dazhou County on Jul 12. (Photo courtesy: RFA)

(, Jul17, 2015) – Chinese authorities have on Jul 16 cremated the body of a respected Tibetan lama in the presence of 32 of his relatives and disciples in Dazhou County of Sichuan’s capital Chengdu after rejecting their requests to carry out a funeral service in keeping with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. They have given no explanation for the lama’s death or the reason for denying custody of his body to his relatives or monastery located in Nyagchu (Chinese: Yajiang) County of Sichuan Province.

The lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, had died in Chuandong Prison in Dazhou County on Jul 12. He was sentenced to death, with a two-year reprieve, in 2002 on a trumped up bomb explosions charge, devoid of any evidence, which was later commuted to life sentence.

Reuters Jul 16 cited the lama’s sister Dolkar (Lhamo) as saying Chinese authorities cremated the body in the presence of more than 30 monks, nuns and family members. It also cited her as saying they had denied her request that her brother’s body be preserved for 15 days in keeping with Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

Dolkar has also said her brother’s fingernails and mouth were black and that officials had not told her the cause of his death, adding to her suspicions. In statement read at the cremation, she has said, Chinese authorities said Rinpoche had died at 04:00 pm on Jul 12, contradicting their earlier notification that he had died at 02:00 pm.

The Chinese authorities have also refused to issue a death certificate after promising one, betraying a resolve to withhold information about the cause of death. Following the cremation, Dolkar Lhamo has written a five-point appeal to the authorities, seeking legal justification for not releasing his body to his family and demanding an investigation into the whole incident, including the cause of the death. The letter shows that the cremation was carried out by the prison staff, without any funeral service.

One person was later allowed to collect the ashes.

According to Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet Jul 15, the two sisters of Rinpoche were detained for around 10 hours that day in the prison where their brother had died after they refused to sign a document purportedly about his health condition on being told that a copy of it would not be provided to them.

Meanwhile, the European Union has issued a statement Jul 15, expressing “deepest condolences to (Rinpoche’s) family, friends and supporters.”

Earlier, on Jul 13, the British government too had expressed sadness over reports that Rinpoche had died in detention in China. “We raised his case with Chinese authorities on a number of occasions, including during the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in April this year,” said a spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office in a statement.


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