The International Tibet Support Network has released an incredibly powerful video in support of the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan monk who is sitting in jail for a crime he did not commit. He had previously been sentenced to death, but international outcry and pressure forced the Chinese government to commute it to life in prison. Remarkably, the video contains a short audio clip of TDR from within prison. In it, he says:
“I am not guilty, please appeal for justice for me….call all people together and do everything possible to help me overturn the verdict”.
ITSN notes what is happening within Tibet in support of Tenzin Delek:
In a recent remarkable act of support and bravery, 40,000 Tibetans in Tenzin Delek’s community signed petitions – many signatures being in the form of thumbprints – demanding justice for their leader.
Tenzin Delek was one of the most influential religious leaders in Lithang, Kham – which is in eastern Tibet. He was renowned as a reformer and advocate for the Tibetan people. He helped build schools, hospitals, orphanages, and monasteries and promoted the preservation of Tibetan cultural, as well as advocated against exploitative mining practices that rape the Tibetan plateau. Naturally, the Chinese government viewed his peaceful activism in support of the well-being of the Tibetan people as a threat to their national security and framed this peaceful monk as a violent terrorist.
On 3 April 2002, following a bomb blast in Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan province Lobsang Dhondup – who was a distant relative of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was arrested. Four days later, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was detained (along with four close associates) following a midnight raid on Jamyang Choekhorling monastery in Nyagchukha. Both men were convicted on 29 November 2002, after a 3-day closed trial, during Lobsang Dhondup was portrayed as the bomber and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche as the conspirator. The main evidence presented against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was a confession from Lobsang Dhondup, who later retracted the statement claiming he had been tortured. The only other supposed evidence was the presence of political leaflets at the scene of the bombing which the authorities claimed where produced by Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and distributed by Lobsang Dhondup. However no specific evidence was provided actually linking either of them to the leaflets. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has denied ever producing such leaflets. Throughout the proceedings the two accused had no access to independent legal counsel. During the trial, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is reported to have claimed he was tortured and shouted out his support for the Dalai Lama. On 2 December 2002 both men were sentenced to death, with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche receiving a two-year reprieve.
As I mentioned above, the international outcry following Tenzin Delek’s railroading lead to the suspension and later commutation of his sentence. Sadly, Lobsand Dhondup was executed at the same time as TDR received his suspended sentence.
Other than the Panchen Lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche remains one of the highest profile Tibetan prisoners of conscience in China. Take action to call for his release here.