Death sentence for Bangri Rinpoche commuted to life imprisonment

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The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy received reliable information on Bangri Rinpoche’s arrest of 27 August 1999. (Ref: TCHRD Update January 2000 & December 2003) (Background detail on Bangri Rinpoche attached below)

It has come to light through reliable sources to TCHRD- that in May 2001, Bangri Rinpoche was sentenced to death with two years suspension on charges of “espionage” and “endangering state security” by the Lhasa Municipality Intermediate People’s Court. Nima Choedon, Bangri Rinpoche’s wife was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for the same charges. On 29 May 2001, both were shifted to Drapchi Prison in the north of Lhasa City and were incarcerated in solitary confinement for more than a year. They were later shifted to prison unit no. 5 meant for prisoners with political charges. 

In 2003 Bangri Rinpoche’s death sentence with two years suspension was commuted to life imprisonment. Nima Choedon is due for release in year 2008.

Bangri Rinpoche’s arrest was followed by arrest of Dechen Choezom, sister of Rinpoche on the night of 29 August, 1999 by the Lhasa Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials. She was taken for questioning and detained for nine days before being released.

Rinpoche’s arrest came on charges of his alleged connection with Tashi Tsering who was implicated for attempting to explode a bomb in the Potala Square during the National Minority Games in Lhasa in August 1999. Although TCHRD was aware of Tashi Tsering’s mysterious death in the Gutsa Detention Centre, this time the Centre received confirmation of his death by suicide on 8 February 2000. Tashi Tsering, unable to bear continued interrogation through severe torture had committed suicide by slitting his throat with the help of razor blade.

As per TCHRD source, at least 23 people were arrested in connection with Bangri Rinpoche’s case. Twelve of them were sentenced to imprisonment with varying terms. (list of arrestees below)

Name, Sex, Charges, Sentence

  1. Bangri Rinpoche, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, Death Sentence
  2. Nima Choedon, Female, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 10 years imprisonment
    Tashi Tsering, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, Committed suicide
  3. Lhakdon, Female, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 2 years
  4. Choedon, Female, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 2 years imprisonment
  5. Geleg Nima, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 3 yrs Reform through Labor
  6. Dechen Choezom, Female, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 3 years imprisonment
  7. Toho, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 2 years imprisonment
  8. Gadhe Kyap, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 1 ½ years imprisonment
  9. Shelok, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 2 years imprisonment
  10. Karma Yeshi, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 3 yrs Reform through Labor
  11. Thupten Dargyal, Male, Espionage & Endangering State Security, 3 yrs Reform through Labor

**Except Bangri Rinpoche and Nima Choedon, all were released after completing their sentence

Three more close relatives of Bangri Rinpoche were detained at Sangyip Detention Center before being shifted to Gutsa Detention Center. As per information all of the arrestees were subjected to series of interrogations on their connections with Rinpoche and many more were tortured while in detention.

The events of the arrests of Bangri Rinpoche were followed by the authorities’ closure of Gyatso Orphanage on 17 October 1999. The Orphanage was a children’s home built by Rinpoche. At the time of its closure there were 59 destitute children between the age of two months infant to twelve years.

It has also come to light that due to innumerable torture in prison, at present Bangri Rinpoche is not in a position to move his upper part of the body and lost much of his body weight. In addition Rinpoche had developed ulcer and jaundice while in prison and his health condition is known to have deteriorated considerably.

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy is horrified at the news of the death sentence on Bangri Rinpoche. The Centre expresses grave concern over China’s use of thedeath penalty, more so over the kind of charges for which it is used. Amnesty International calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in China quoted that China’s justice system is no condition to offer fair trials. The fact that TCHRD received this news so late also indicates the tight control on the freedom of information flow.

Background information 

Jigme Tenzin Nima (a.k.a Bangri Rinpoche) was born in Nangchen County, Kyegudo Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province. He was recognized as the reincarnation of Bangri Rinpoche of Nangchen Bangri Monastery. Bangri Rinpoche was very concerned about children especially orphans who could not receive education although they had reached their schooling age. Rinpoche’s concern and generosity led him to establish an orphanage school through his own expenses and generous donations. The orphanage was founded in Gyatso Township near the Norbulingka Palace and was named as Gyatso orphanage.

In May 1996, forty orphans from various parts of Tibet were admitted into the orphanage. Rinpoche took the overall responsibility to look after the orphanage. His wife Nyima Choedon, assisted him in administration works. The orphans were given education in Tibetan language, Chinese language, English language and mathematics.

Until the arrest of Bangri Rinpoche and Nima Choedon in August 1999, the Gyatso Orphanage catered to the needs of orphans and street children who had no one to depend on.