Chinese authorities won’t release body of holy man

Tibetan rights activist and film star Richard Gere is surrounded by pictures of the lama. Picture: AFP/Getty
Tibetan rights activist and film star Richard Gere is surrounded by pictures of the lama. Picture: AFP/Getty
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Chinese authorities have refused to release the body of a Tibetan lama who died in a Chinese prison, prompting a sit-in outside the jail by more than 100 Tibetans, a pro-Tibet rights group said.

The family was informed on Sunday that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, died 13 years into a life sentence on charges of financing and supporting a series of terrorist bombings and secession activities. His supporters say that the charges were false.

The prison has not produced the lama’s body after two days of tense negotiations between the police and the monk’s immediate family, the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet said yesterday in a statement.

The family wants to perform Tibetan Buddhist funeral rites on the body.

His sister Dolkar said family and friends fear that the authorities might cremate the monk’s body without seeking family permission.

“Our only request is to have his body, but the prison has said it should have the custody of the remains,” said Dolkar, who was in Dazhu county in south-western Sichuan province, which borders the Tibetan region.

Dolkar said the family request fell on deaf ears and that they were yet to view the monk’s remains or be provided with his death certificate or medical records.

Like many Tibetans, she goes by one name.

Calls to the prison were unanswered yesterday.

Human rights groups have long argued the monk’s innocence, saying he suffered more than 13 years of unjust imprisonment, after being arrested on false charges, torture and abuse in the Chinese prison, for advocating for the rights of his fellow Tibetans.

Tenzin Delek was arrested in 2002 in connection with a blast in Chengdu city that wounded three people.

He had continued to maintain his innocence.

Students for a Free Tibet expressed concern that the group outside the prison could themselves face danger.

Last year, the monk’s family had applied for medical parole for him on the grounds that he suffered from a heart condition, high blood pressure, dizzy spells and problems with his legs that had caused him to fall down 

However, the authorities never responded to the request.

In Washington, members of the House of Representatives also demanded Chinese authorities return the lama’s body to his family members for a funeral. At a hearing on Tibet by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, movie actor Richard Gere, a long-standing advocate for Tibetan freedom, called the monk “one of the good men of the community” who found commonality between Tibetans and Chinese.