Widely beloved teacher and popular social worker, recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of Lithang Monastery’s senior lama, Trulku Tenzin Delek currently serves life imprisonment at Chuangdong Prison in Dazu District, charged on dubious grounds with involvement in terrorist activities.
Linking the respected lama to Chengdu bomb blasts, Sichuan PSB officers arrested Tenzin Delek on 7th April 2002, who was later sentenced to death with suspension of two years by the Provincial Higher People’s Court. Chinese officials denied the appeal for a fair and legitimate re-trial, flying in the face of Chinese Criminal Law, which guarantees this right. The Higher People’s Court, however, lessened the severity of Tenzin Delek’s punishment to life in prison when a few days before his planned execution on 26th January 2004, international objection caught the attention of the Chinese government.
Of Lithang County, Karze, Sichuan Province, Tenzin Delek gained popularity and followers among the people with his teachings and deeds. The religious leader advocated for the preservation of the Tibetan culture and encouraged faithfulness to the Dalai Lama’s teachings; all the more, he unabashedly spoke out against China’s oppression inside Tibet. Tenzin Delek also became a public figure by leading social welfare activities such as building schools and hospitals. During his five-year stay in India from 1982-1987, Tenzin Delek had an audience with the Dalai Lama, who praised Tenzin Delek for his work in Tibet.
Ever since his return, the Chinese authorities have kept Tenzin Delek under constant watch and on a number of occasions, tried to detain the influential lama. In 1998, officials attempted to arrest him by claiming that he founded new monasteries ” in private capacity by holding aloft the banner of ‘Lamaism’ without approval of state government.” Local authorities again tried to detain Tenzin Delek in 2000, but each time his supporters petitioned against Chinese from taking the beloved leader into custody.
Given the Chinese government’s perception of influential figures, whether religious or social, as a political threat and its exploitation of the post-Sept 11 era to label any political activities as acts of terrorism, most see the recent charges against Tenzin Delek as an attempt to frame him for terrorist involvement.
Deeply concerned for the highly esteemed lama, Tibetan Women’s Association calls on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, governments, and the international community to intervene in the situation. Because the case of Tenzin Delek is not an isolated incident and arbitrary arrests with protracted incommunicado detentions are epidemic, Tibetan Women’s Association furthermore urges China to accept an independent body to probe the Chinese legal system, which in practice allows for such abuses.
April 2012 will mark the 10 year anniversary since Trulku Tenzin Delek has been held after being convicted and sentenced to life imprisoned following his alleged involvement in terrorist activities.
In December 2011, it was reported the former teacher and social worker was once again suffering health problems. This news echoes information received the year before when a Chinese prison guard reportedly told relatives of Delek that he was suffering from ‘chronic cardiac illness and hypertension’.
There have been further developments in the petition for Delek’s release. In November 2011, John Kamm, founder and chairman of the San Francisco based Dui Hua Foundation, which has close relations with the Chinese government, sought for Delek’s release. He told reporters that he had requested the release of Delek and another longstanding Tibetan prisoner, Lobsang Tezin, on his most recent trip to Beijing.
He said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to express my strong hope that among those who are released early would be Tenzin Delek and, of course, Lobsang Tenzin.”
In November 2009, 40,000 Tibetan’s signed a petition for his release, in addition they were hunger strikes at the country seat of Lithang for several days which lead to the temporary arrest of about 70 individuals.