26 June is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) joins initiatives across the world to end torture and create a safer world for all to exercise human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Torture is one of the persistent human rights issues in Tibet owing to China’s routine practice of torturing suspects in pretrial detention mostly to extract forced confessions. Torture is used as a tool to intimidate and terrorise the whole community by making an example out of a detainee either by lifelong injuries or death.
On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Nyima Lhamo, niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, calls for international action on the unresolved case of her uncle’s death in a Chinese prison and to carry out a thorough investigation into the circumstances that led to the religious leader’s conviction and eventually his untimely death on 12 July 2015 at Chuandong Prison.
Chinese authorities have not provided any autopsy reports or death certificate to corroborate the claim that Rinpoche had died a natural death. Some raised suspicions that he was poisoned. Despite repeated appeals, family and relatives were neither given custody of his body nor his ashes.
In her video message, Lhamo recalled how Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was subjected to severe torture, which eventually led to his early death. She raised the execution of Lobsang Dhondup, a disciple of Rinpoche, who was falsely convicted, tortured for eight months, and then executed after a closed-door trial. She makes a fervent appeal to seek justice for Rinpoche and other Tibetan political detainees who are wrongly imprisoned and tortured.
Translation of Nyima Lhamo’s video message:
“Tashi Delek to all the viewers! This is my request to our leaders and my Tibetan brothers and sisters. As everyone is aware, Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a revered Tibetan Buddhist Lama who was falsely convicted by the Chinese authorities. He was imprisoned and tortured severely during his 13 years in a Chinese prison. He was disrobed, subjected to extreme cold and hot water, and asked to prove if he really was a trulku [reincarnated spiritual leaders].
In the end, he died on 12 July 2015. In fact, he was killed in prison by the Chinese authorities. Moreover, his disciple, Lobsang Dhondup, only 28 years old, was detained and tortured for 8 months and subsequently executed by the Chinese authorities.
Tibetans outside Tibet have protested with hope to get justice. Some have even gone to prison for months and years but still, justice is being denied. Therefore I request everyone to pursue Rinpoche’s case until there is an impartial investigation into his death.
Inside Tibet, Panchen Rinpoche and many Tibetan prisoners are suffering under the Chinese government. They are being tortured yet they have no way to speak out and seek justice. Therefore, I request everyone to continue the call for justice.
Thank you, everyone!
Lhamo was among 300 relatives and disciples of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who held a peaceful demonstration and hunger strike outside the prison gate on 15 July 2015 demanding the authorities to show Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death certificate.
The PRC should investigate Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death and make the results of the investigation public. A government’s obligation to investigate deaths is required to fulfill the right to a remedy for family members if the death was caused deliberately or by negligence. Additionally, the investigation establishes facts necessary to prosecute officials who were complicit in the death and can prevent other deaths. A genuine, transparent investigation of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death and the prosecution of the responsible officials would send a clear message that the PRC is committed to rule of law and ending the culture of impunity that has allowed human rights violations to occur in Tibet unchecked.