Indian Express

‘They're Here to Plead for a Monk's Life’
(By Abhishek Sharan | The Indian Express | November 07, 2004)

In a makeshift tent in a corner of Azad Maidan, they sit on a relay hunger strike organised by Friends of Tibet and the Tibetan Youth Congress. About 300 Tibetans, young and old, kneel down periodically to offer prayers. They ask the 'free world' to save a man — Tibetan Buddhist monk Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche — from punishment for a crime they say he didn't commit. And they ask Chinese President Hu Jintao to let him go.

The Tibetans have been here since Friday. Their protest will continue till Tuesday, after which they will move on to Bangalore, Delhi and Calcutta. Rinpoche (54) has been in Chinese prisons since his arrest on April 7, 2002. Charged with scheming to set off a bomb that took one life, he is due to be executed following the expiration on December 2 of a reprieve on his death sentence. But the Tibetan Buddhist community claims Rinpoche was wrongfully accused. Rinpoche completed his religious education in Himachal Pradesh, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. He returned to Kardze, a province in his native Tibet, in 1987 "to serve his people."

He was involved in building schools, monasteries, homes for the aged and hospitals in Chinese-occupied Tibet, and spoke out against the clearing of Tibet's shrinking green cover. As an activist, Rinpoche did not escape notice by the Chinese government. He was arrested in 1998 for building a monastery without state approval and also ordered chuan Public Bureau arrested Rinpoche, accusing him of master-minding a bomb blast at Chengdu. Rinpoche's distant relative Lobsang Dhondhup was also arrested. The duo protested their innocence, but the Kardze Intermediate People's Court on December 2, 2002, sentenced Rinpoche to death for his involvement in the bombing and for "inciting unrest". Dhondhup was also sentenced to death and was executed on January 26, 2003. Rinpoche was granted a two-year reprieve.

Both, says an angry Jigme Thinlay (28), joint secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, "were denied their legal rights". Now, three weeks from his scheduled execution and 2,200 km from Rinpoche's cell in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, supporters are fighting to set him free. On a poster displayed on Azad Maidan, Rinpoche's head appears inside a partially-tightened noose. Nearby, Tenzin Tsundue, another Tibetan activist, urges visitors to send protest postcards to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, urging him to help Rinpoche. Others point out that Human Rights Watch has censured China's treatment of the prisoner.

Campaign for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

The Case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche