Niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche gives first press conference after reaching India

Nyima Lhamo (right). She was detained in 2015 with her mother, Dolkar (left)
Nyima Lhamo (right). She was detained in 2015 with her mother, Dolkar (left)
1st August 2016

Nyima Lhamo spoke about her late uncle and her escape from Tibet

The niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has given her first press conference since escaping from occupied Tibet to India.

Nyima Lhamo, who reached Dharamasala in northern India last week after an 18-day journey from Tibet, spoke to media on 28 July. The event was organised by the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration, Tibet's government in exile.

In a statement, Nyima Lhamo described the circumstances around the death of her uncle, who was Tibet’s most high-profile political prisoner. She also described the reaction to his death, and her arrest and detention alongside her mother, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s sister, only weeks later.

Nyima Lhamo’s statement

I am Nyima Lhamo and I was born in Lithang in Kham. I am 26 years old and I am the niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. It is a wonderful feeling to be here and feel the freedom that I have always dreamt of.

Despite all the challenges and hardships, I managed to come out of Tibet. My Uncle Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had suffered a lot and passed away in Chinese prison last year. Similarly, many Tibetans inside Tibet have suffered and continue to suffer under the repressive Chinese rule.  I took all challenges with the hope to share the suffering of Tibetans in Tibet.

I am extremely happy to be speaking in front of you today. Thank you very much for being here. I am sure you all are well aware of my Uncle's case. I have sent information through Geshe Nyima while I was in Tibet. So I won't go into too much detail. I have two points and one hope to share with you all today.

Firstly, I will speak about the situation before and soon after the death of Rinpoche, and after that I will speak about the ongoing situation in Lithang in connection with Rinpoche’s case.

Ten days before Rinpoche passed away, my mother and my aunt were called to see Rinpoche in Chengdu. However, they were not allowed to meet him. One day I received a call from my mother saying that had Rinpoche passed away. I immediately informed my villagers, and around 300 people gathered at the Lithang County Offices and demanded that the dead body of Rinpoche be returned for final rituals. After repeated appeals, in the end, nine people were allowed to go to Chengdu to appeal for the return of the body.

With a lot of difficulty, I managed to get to Chengdu. The vehicles going towards Chengdu were all blocked and thoroughly checked. I had to overcome lots of difficulties to reach Chengdu. As soon I got there, I met my mother and we started to protest the prison authorities for not allowing us to see the dead body of Rinpoche. I attempted suicide by trying to hang myself with a scarf. However, I was stopped by the prison staff and finally was given access to see the dead body. There, I noticed Rinpoche's lips were black. But his body was covered. Following that, we accused the authorities of having killed Rinpoche through poisoning.

As you all know, my mother and I were detained for 18 days in Chengdu. The reason given for our detention was for leaking state secrets to the outside world. While in detention, we were interrogated whether we had shared any information on Rinpoche’s death. I responded to them that I received numerous calls from unknown callers, and did tell them Rinpoche had been murdered.

In detention, we were told to sign a document, and my mother refused by saying she could not read. If the document was about Rinpoche, even at gun point, she was not going to sign. She said that Tenzin Delek Ripoche was not only her lama, but also a highly respected Tibetan lama followed by many. So she had no authority to sign the document.

The authorities put three conditions in the document for us to sign. These conditions were:

1. We would not share any information on Rinpoche in Tibet and China.

2. We would not make any accusations against the authorities that Rinpoche died of poisoning.

3.   We would not share any information or discuss Rinpoche's death at any public gathering or to the outside world.Obviously, we refused to sign these conditions. We were warned that if we did not comply by these conditions, all of our family members would be put in jail. However, we were told that our village leader had signed those conditions on our behalf and we were strictly instructed to follow his directions. That is how my mother and I were able to come out from detention.

After Rinpoche's death, the Chinese authorities continue to discredit Rinpoche by:

1. Not allowing his family and villagers to conduct prayer services for Rinpoche.

2. As per tradition, Rinpoche's followers and well-wishers planned to build a stupa to pay homage to their late guru. But authorities didn't allow the construction of the stupa.

3. Display of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's photo is not allowed in any monastery in Lithang.

4. Authorities are distributing pamphlets and airing false and distorted information on TV, such as, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a fake lama, a criminal, and that he was a threat to so-called "social stability".

5. We heard that the authorities in Nyagchuka (Nagchu) are attempting to manipulate the reincarnation of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche as the Chinese authorities did in the case of the Panchen Lama.

6. Rinpoche's belongings in prison and those with relatives were forcibly confiscated and told they would be burned.

Due to this unbearable situation, I took all risks to come out of Tibet to speak out to the world. I am fully aware my speaking out on Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is risking the lives of my family and relatives at home.

My hope is that the allegations against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche be thoroughly investigated in accordance with Chinese and International law, and China reveal the true circumstances that led to the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.


Nyima Lhamo is currently staying at the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre near Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, northern India.

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Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was one of many Tibetan monks to stand up to the Chinese occupation. Tibetan monks and nuns face arrest and harsh treatment in prison for their defiance. Take action for Tibet's Robed Resisters.