China releases monk serving seven years’ sentence

Luzi Tashi Phuntsok, who was serving seven years’ imprisonment sentence in Yakra Phuk Prison (Tib translit:  gyag ra phuk), was released on 28 July 2003, according to reliable information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). On 30 July, Tashi reportedly arrived at Jamyang Choekhorling Monastery in Nyakchuka County, Karze “Tibet Autonomous Prefecture” (“TAP”), Sichuan Province.

Tashi was arbitrarily arrested on 17 April 2002 from his monastery and detained in Nyakchuka County Public Security Bureau (PSB) Detention Centre for a day. Later, he was transferred to Yakra Phuk Prison. In the end of November 2002, Karze People’s Intermediate Court sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment on alleged charges of   colluding with Trulku Tenzin Delek, a respected Buddhist teacher in eastern Tibet. On 2 December 2002, Karze Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Trulku Tenzin Delek to death with a suspension of two years for allegedly “causing bomb explosions”. Another Tibetan, Lobsang Dhondup, was executed on 26 January 2002 for the same charges.

At the time of Tashi’s arrest, he was reportedly suffering from tuberculosis and was hospitalised. Owing to ill treatment and lack of proper medical attention, his health deteriorated while in prison. When report last came to TCHRD, both Luzi Tashi Phuntsok and Tsering Dhondup, who is the head of Othok Village, had developed critical health complications. Tsering Dhondup, who was serving five years’ imprisonment sentence, was released earlier this month on 11 July 2003. It is reported that Tsering’s health is not showing any signs of improvements even after release.

Luzi Tashi Phuntsok, 42, was born in Othok Village, Nyakchuka County, Sichuan Province. Being the disciplinarian of the monastery, Luzi Tashi shouldered many responsibilities including organising prayer ceremonies and festivals. In 1993, he protested vehemently against the Chinese deforestation drive in his local area. It is said that Chinese authorities targeted Trulku Tenzin Delek for his popular social activities and cultural preservation projects in Tibet. The locals protested against Trulku Tenzin Delek’s arrest through petitions and fund raising activities. Tashi was one of the main protesters against the authorities.

The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission of Human Rights on freedom of religion and belief had communicated with the Chinese Government on May 2002 concerning circumstances relating to Trulku Tenzin Delek and others. The Chinese Government has submitted a response stating that  “On 20 August, the procuratorial authorities instituted criminal proceedings against the defendant Tenzin Delek Rinpoche with the Intermediate People’s Court of the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, for the crimes of fomenting separatism and causing an explosion and against defendant Phondup (Lobsang Dhondup) for formenting separatism, causing an explosion and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition”

In a further clarification, the Chinese Government has stated, “Asher Dhargye, aged 39 and Tsultrim Dhargye, aged 36, (both now released) were ordered to serve one years’ labour through re-education by the Ganzi prefecture labour rehabilitation committee in May 2002 for colluding with Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in separatist activities.  Tamdin Tsering and others were detained for questioning and received penalties strictly for violating law.”

TCHRD registered 13 known arrest in connection with Trulku Tenzin Delek’s case. As per current information received, all the others have been released after various prison terms and detentions except for Trulku Tenzin Delek and Tamdin Tsering. The whereabouts of the two juveniles under the care of Trulku is still unknown. Unconfirmed reports indicate that as many as 80 Tibetans were detained with some being released after two or three months while others after 10 –20 days and some still in detention.

TCHRD demands China to withdraw sentences on Trulku Tenzin Delek and Tamdin Tsering and release them immediately. Both monks are believed to be falsely accused and held without proper legal representation.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) is the first Tibetan non-governmental organisation (NGO) established in January 1996 with the mission “to highlight the human rights situation in Tibet and to promote principles of democracy in Tibetan community.”

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