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Chinese police fire on Tibetans protesting prison death of their religious leader

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(TibetanReview.net, Jul15, 2015) – Chinese police opened fire and also fired teargas shells on a gathering of more than a thousand Tibetans in Nyagchu (Chinese: Yajiang) County of Karze (Ganzi) Prefecture, Sichuan Province, a day after the death in prison, reportedly on Jul 12, of their revered religious leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, reported Radio Free Asia (Washington), Jul 13. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The gathering was said to have been meant to mourn for the death of the highly popular religious leader, who was also a philanthropist and active in cultural and environmental protection works. However when the crowd sought the return of the religious leader’s body for carrying out the last religious rites and also demanded explanation for the death, the Chinese responded with violence.

Besides, paramilitary armed police were deployed and the road between Lithang (Litang) and Nyagchu counties were blocked, while travels were restricted and communication lines cut.

It was not clear when exactly or how Rinpoche, who was 65 years old, had died. No one had been allowed to visit him over the last two years. His two sisters had been camping in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu for two weeks, seeking to visit him in the Chuangdong Prison in Dazhu County. “They were told that they could see him next day, or next Monday, or next Sunday, and so on,” the report quoted a local source as saying. And then on Jul 12, the Chinese authorities told them that they could see him at 11:00 am, only to be informed at about 12:00 noon that he had died. No explanation was given how.

According to Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet Jul 13, during their last permitted visit, his family found that Rinpoche had some sort of heart problem, possibly a heart attack, part of his body was shaking uncontrollably, and he had lost consciousness on numerous occasions. The group quoted Rinpoche’s cousin in India, Geshe Nyima, as saying: “There are so many unanswered questions about how he died: Was it due to poor health, lack of medical treatment, or was he subjected to torture or other poor treatment that resulted in his death?”

The group noted that Last October, Tibetans gathered in his come county of Nyagchu to pray for him in the 12th year of his imprisonment. Local Tibetans had also rebuilt his residence while a major religious ceremony for his long life in Jun 2014 was blocked by the authorities.

Rinpoche’s immense popularity was an eyesore to the local officials who falsely charged him with involvement in an Apr 3, 2002 bombing in the central square of Chengdu. He was initially sentenced to death in December that year, along with an assistant named Lobsang Dondrub. The assistant was executed immediately while his sentenced was eventually converted into life imprisonment.

Rinpoche had visited India and was recognized by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as a reincarnated lama in the 1980s. The Chinese authorities had detained or sough to detain him several times on various false charges before eventually accusing him of being involved in an unsolved bombing incident.

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