By Luca Galuzzi (Lucag) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Luca Galuzzi (Lucag) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Suspicion is mounting regarding the cause of monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s death.

Tibetans are protesting following the death of a religious monk and spiritual leader, demanding the release of his body by Chinese authorities. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, aged 65, died while serving his prison term after he was arrested, charged, and convicted on grounds of ‘terrorism and inciting separatism.’ He was arrested in April 2012, and in December of the same year he was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve where the threat of execution would be suspended subject to his good behavior. His sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment which he was serving until his demise.

News of his death came through family members and a Tibetan exile activist group, Students for a Free Tibet. His cousin, Geshe Nyima, and Students for a Free Tibet, based in New York, provided the details surrounding the death and the protests which have come as a result. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was one of the most prominent critics of the Chinese government based in the southwestern province of Sichuan. His death has also attracted international attention with the United States calling for an investigation into his death. There is widespread suspicion regarding the cause of the Monk’s death. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had been engaged in activism especially on issues regarding deforestation.

Supporters from his region gathered at the Chuandong prison where he was jailed demanding the return of the body. According to his cousin Nyima and his sister Dolkar, the official of the prison had said they will not return the monk’s body. One of the protesters told Reuters that the authorities had said they would cremate the body Wednesday afternoon. However many of the protesters were adamant they would camp at the prison until the body was released to them. There have also been reports coming from Tibetan advocacy groups, International Campaign for Tibet and Free Tibet, which indicate some of the Tibetan protesters were beaten up by Chinese security forces.

According to Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser this call is a result of Tibetan distrust to Chinese government. Tibetans also required the body to be returned to the family in order for funeral rites to be performed. Tibet has been under an iron fist Chinese rule since 1950 which led to their spiritual leader The Dalai Lama to flee into exile in India in 1959. China has come under missing criticism on grounds of suppressing Tibetan freedom, culture and religion. The arrest and persecution of Tibetan leaders such as Tenzin Delek only compounds such fears and criticism.

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