(TibetanReview.net, Oct16, 2014) – In open defiance of the Chinese government, Tibetan villagers in Lithang (Chinese: Litang) County of Karze (Ganzi) Prefecture, Sichuan Province, have on Oct 12 displayed a large portrait of the Dalai Lama and gathered under it to pray for the release of a prominent local religious figure serving life sentence since 2002 for a trumped up bombing charge. The religious figure, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, now 64, is also popular for his humanitarian and environmental works.
The gathering took place at a site in the county’s Golog Township containing prayer flags and stupas. The resident put up two large portraits, one each of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, and made offerings and said prayers. Speeches were made in which the speakers remembered the gratitude they owed to the imprisoned monk and how he had been falsely implicated and initially sentenced to death. They blamed Zhou Yongkang and officials under him for the monk’s ordeal. Zhou, who was the party secretary of Sichuan in 2002, later become one of China’s most powerful leaders as a Politburo Standing Committee member with authority over China’s internal security machinery, including the courts, police and paramilitary police, intelligence, and the prosecution service. Zhou is now under investigation for suspected for corruption and abuse of power and possibly other charges as well.
The prayer gathering is an annual event and the local authorities were therefore aware of it but did not intervene, the reported cited an exile source with local contacts as saying. China condemns the Dalai Lama as a splittist, although he only seeks autonomy for his homeland, and has banned his pictures.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was highly popular among local Tibetans for his charity and environmental works and had successfully challenged the local authorities on a number of policy issues. They implicated him in an unsolved bombing in the central square of Sichuan’s capital Chengdu on an Apr 3, 2002 and got him sentenced to death, with a two-year reprieve, along with his assistant Lobsang Dondrub. The latter was executed almost immediately while Tenzin Delk Rinpoche’s sentence was later commuted to life sentence.
Local Tibetans have over the years made a number of appeals as well as held numerous protests, including large ones over several days, to demand the monk’s release.