Tenzin Delek's niece, Nyima Lhamo, and her mother, Dolkar Lhamo, were briefly detained after the Rinpoche’s death last year.
The niece of the late Tibetan monk and political prisoner Tenzin Delek Rincpoche has arrived in Dharamsala, the location of Tibet's government in exile, having escaped from occupied Tibet.
Nyima Lhamo arrived in Dharamsala yesterday, where she was formally welcomed by staff from Gu Chu Sum Movement Association of Tibet, the Tibetan organisation for former political prisoners. Nyima Lhamo will meet with staff from Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch in the coming days.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was a popular senior monk from Litang in Kardze County. He was known for his activism for the wellbeing of Tibetans and the environment and his work with schools and orphanages and recognised by Tibetan Buddhists as a reincarnate lama. He was the most high-profile Tibetan political prisoner before his death, aged 65, on 12 July 2015.
He was serving a 20-year sentence after for his alleged involvement in a bomb explosion in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province, in 2002. No evidence of his involvement was ever produced. An alleged accomplice, Lobsang Dhondup, was executed in January 2003 despite there being no evidence of his involvement either.
Protests and outrage
Governments and campaign groups condemned Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s imprisonment and, when news spread that he was suffering from ill-health, also began to call for his release through medical parole. On 2 July 2015, family members were suddenly invited to visit him, but on arrival in Chengdu they were repeatedly denied access to the prison. On 12 July, they were informed by authorities that he had died.
Chinese authorities claimed that the cause of death was a heart attack and that they had tried to resuscitate him, but refused to release his body, preventing an independent inquiry into the cause of death. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's sister, Dolkar Lhamo, appealed to authorities for an explanation of the circumstances surrounding his death while Tibetans in Kardze County carried out protests. The authorities instead moved swiftly to carry out a cremation, not only against the wishes of family members but also in violation of Buddhist funeral rites and Chinese law. The true cause of his death is still unknown.
Later in July, Dolkar and her daughter, Nyima Lhamo, were arrested in a restaurant in Chengdu and detained on suspicion of sharing details about Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death. No charges were filed against them and after two weeks in prison they were returned to their homes in Nyagchuka in Kardze County.
Nyima Lhamo has not yet provided any testimony of her life in Tibet or her escape to India, so further details may follow. China has made it increasingly difficult for refugees to escape from Tibet, with only 72 Tibetans reaching Dharamsala in 2014 and fewer still last year.
Tibetan political prisoners are frequently cut off from the outside world. In such conditions they face a real risk of abuse and even torture in prison. Call on China to stop torture in Tibet.