Tibetan environmental defender and former political prisoner passes away

Tashi Phuntsok
Tashi Phuntsok
Tashi Phuntsok
24th March 2020

Tashi Phuntsok, an associate of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, passed away earlier this month

Free Tibet has received news that Tibetan environmental defender and former political prisoner, Tashi Phuntsok, has died at the age of 60.

Tashi Phuntsok passed away on 17 March in Lithang County in eastern Tibet after being taken to hospital.

Tibetans know Tashi Phuntsok for his role in leading protests against deforestation in Nyachukha County, eastern Tibet in 1993. According to Tibet Watch’s sources, 500 people turned out to protest, to which China responded by deploying police and military personnel. When police attempted to arrest Tashi Phuntsok, there was public outcry, resulting in his release.

Tashi Phuntsok also submitted an appeal to the Sichuan provincial authority, the body in charge of Nyachukha County, asking them to halt the deforestation. He did this in collaboration with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche a senior monk and community leader highly regarded by Tibetans to this day.

On 17 April 2002 Tashi Phuntsok was arrested and imprisoned. His arrest was connected to trumped-up charges against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who was accused of being behind a series of bombings in the city of Chengdu. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was initially sentenced to death, which was then commuted to a prison sentence. He would go on to become Tibet’s most high-profile political prisoner until his death in 2015.  

Tashi Phuntsok was sentenced to seven years in prison, where he was severely beaten and tortured. He developed a pulmonary illness while in prison and the deterioration in his health was so grave that he was released after serving only one year of his sentence.

The restrictions in Tibet have made it hard to get information of Tashi Phuntsok’s last days, with little known about the circumstances of him being taken to hospital.

Tashi Phuntsok is survived by his younger brother.

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