Portrait of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Ama Dolma la(name changed) is in her 70s, but she had been standing continuously for an hour, by holding a half burnt candle tightly in her hand, though the flame on that doesn’t seem to be so strong as the one inside her. However she was standing still among the dozens of Tibetan youth who are also attending the candle light vigil, which was holding in honor of Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected Tibetan spiritual teacher and one of the most prominent Tibetan political prisons, has died while being incarcerated in Chinese prison on 12th of July.

Besides Rinpoche was a great Tibetan spiritual teacher, he was also known by his fellow Tibetans for his efforts to protect the degradation of Tibetan culture and religion from onslaught of oppressive Chinese policies. Apart from that, he was also known for his efforts to protect the environment of Tibet by advocating against illegal mining and pollution of rivers in Tibet.  He has also established schools, children’s homes and retirement homes in his region, that he was highly respected for his noble works.

But unfortunately, Rinpoche was accused of being involved in a bomb blast that occurred in Chengdu city and arrested on 7th of April, 2001, and later sentenced to death under the charges of “Crimes and Terror incitement separatism” in December 2002. However, the real reason for his arrest is believed to be his growing popularity among the public and for his staunch loyalty to his holiness the Dalai Lama. According to HRW report, “based on interviews with numerous eyewitnesses, the report provides a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding Tenzin Delek’s arrest and conviction. It concludes that the case was the culmination of a decade-long effort by Chinese authorities to curb his efforts to foster Tibetan Buddhism, his support for the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, and his work to develop Tibetan social and cultural institutions. His efforts had become a focal point for Tibetans struggling to retain their cultural identity in the face of China’s restrictive policies and its continuing persecuting of individuals attempting to push the accepted boundaries of cultural and social expression”.

On the following month, Rinpoche’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after repeated appeals from international human rights organizations and worldwide campaign by Tibetans in exile. Despite hundreds of Tibetans have staged massive peace marches and protests in different parts of the world, Rinpochen was not released from prison by the Chinese authority. Over thirteen years of unjust imprisonment and ruthless torture left Rinpoche with severely deteriorating health conditions for which he received no treatment. In 2004, his family and many other NGOs have applied for a medical parole for late Rinpoche, but it was the Chinese govt. who has never granted that for him. And later on the 12th of July, Trulku’s family members were informed by the police in Chengdu that Trulku has passed away. Despite hundreds of Tibetans have demanded for Trulku’s body to be hand over to the family for a proper rites and final Buddhist funeral ceremony, China declined the protesters and Tenzin Delek’s body was cremated at Chinese prison, where only few Tibetans and his relatives were allowed to see the body before the cremation. However, his family has later claimed murder through ‘poisoning’ after seeing the condition of the dead body. According to Dolkar, Tulku’sister who was later been detained by Chinese authority said “His finger nails and mouth were black that officials had not told her the cause of his death”.

Tenzin Delek’s sudden death had left Tibetans inside and outside Tibet in deepest grief and hundreds of local Tibetans have staged protests against Chinese authority for murdering of Tulku, and demanded for justice. However, there was an open fire on the peaceful protesters resulting in serious injury of Tibetan who were shot upon and beaten by Chinese security personal. Moreover, the ashes of Tulku which had once been handed over to his family was later confiscated forcibly by the authority. The fact that late Tulku Tenzin Delek  was not even allowed medical parole and Chinese ruthless reaction over the last wish of Tulku’s followers to see him reflects continuing hard line policies of the Chinese govt. in Tibet. Such mistreatment will only generate resentment among Tibetans, which is the direct result of their failed policies over Tibet and its people.

There are still hundreds of Tibetan political prisoners who are serving lengthy prison terms just like Tulku Tenzin Delek and there are hundred more cases of forced disappearance of Tibetan artists, singers, writers and religious leaders whose whereabouts and conditions are not known even to their close ones. And this is the reason why I have brought this story once again in front of you all, so that you shall realize how much they have sacrificed to bring a better tomorrow for us, and for the entire Tibet. No matter wherever you live, or no matter whatever passports you hold, you are Tibetan by birth and you can’t change that anyway. So always remember the sacrifices made by those people and try to be a good Tibet, a responsible one.

Phuntsok Rabga

Freelance writer.

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