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Free Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and the Lithang Detainees!
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche: a Brief Bio
On January 26, 2003, the Sichuan Higher People's Court upheld the sentence given to Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on December 2, 2002 for inciting separatism and causing explosions. Not only is there no evidence of Rinpoche's involvement, it seems as though the Chinese authorities have used him as a scapegoat to increase repression in eastern Tibet. His sentence is death with a suspension of two years.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, from Lithang county in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was detained in early April after a final explosion occurred in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Apparently authorities in Kardze are known to have been concerned about Rinpoche's influence on people in the area, as well as his connections to H.H. the Dalai Lama. Rinpoche first came under close scrutiny after he returned from studies at Drepung monastery in India from 1982 to 1987. During this time he was recognized by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a senior religious teacher at Lithang monastery.
Upon Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's return from India, Chinese authorities began placing obstacles in Rinpoche's quest to help develop the area socially and religiously. When local authorities objected to him setting up a new monastery called Jamyang Choekhor Ling in his home area, Nyagchu in Lithang, Rinpoche traveled to Beijing and obtained permission from the 10th Panchen Lama a year before his death in 1989.
During the 1990s, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche supported people in the reconstruction of various smaller monasteries and a nunnery, and he was involved in activities to provide homes and education for children from poor local families. The county authorities refused him permission to build a school and an old people's home in one nomadic area. In the late 1990s, however, he successfully set up a school in Lithang for both Tibetan and Chinese children, mostly orphans, providing education in Tibetan, Chinese, mathematics, music and games to at least 130 pupils. Rinpoche was gaining a great amount of respect from the local people. To the Chinese authorities, this was apparently a dangerous thing.
The local authorities made their first attempt to detain Rinpoche in 1998 on grounds that he had established new monasteries "in a private capacity by holding aloft the banner of 'Lamaism' without approval of the state government" and because he had "violated the established policies of the state" (Tibetan language report on the website "Tibetan Freedom," the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, 22 April 2002).
When he was detained, local people took great personal risk in issuing a petition in support of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. The petition referred to the positive impact of Rinpoche on the local area and its social problems. It stated that Rinpoche's teachings and his skills as an arbitrator mean that there has been a decrease both in crime and in tension between local Tibetans and Chinese. The petition was signed in the name of several Tibetan and Chinese families and concluded with an appeal to the local authorities for "a good verdict" on the Rinpoche. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was later able to return from the area where had temporarily taken refuge.
Rinpoche's struggle with the authorities did not end there, however. In 2000 the authorities reportedly ordered him to close down the school in Lithang and made a second attempt to arrest him. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche again resorted to leaving the area, and local people reportedly signed their names to another petition in his support. Authorities again responded to the people's concern, however this time they imposed the condition that he should live "the quiet life of an ordinary monk" without involvement in any "political" activities after his return. They also imposed restrictions on his movements. When Rinpoche returned, many local people turned out to welcome him back.
After 2000 Rinpoche traveled throughout Kardze prefecture to give teachings. Reports from his followers that he traveled very simply, without a large entourage, convey their impression of him as someone who did not have materialistic values and was not concerned with status. On April 7, 2002 the Chinese authorities finally succeeded in arresting Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. Authorities could present no evidence to maintain their claim that he was involved in the bombings - all evidence, in his persona and his social charity, points to the contrary.