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HRIC urges international intervention on death sentence for two Tibetans

December 6, 2002

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has called for the international community to press for an open retrial in the case of Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and his follower Lobsang Dhondup, who were sentenced to death after a secret trial on December 2.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Lobsang Dhondup, who were arrested with three others in April on charges of involvement in a bombing in the main square of Chengdu, Sichuan that same month, were sentenced to death on December 2. Dhondup has until December 12 to appeal an immediate death sentence, while Rinpoche’s death sentence has been suspended for two years.

HRIC communicated through sources with the court and government officials in Sichuan’s Ganzi region, where Rinpoche and Dhondup were tried, and although the information provided was sketchy and sometimes contradictory, the clear impression is that Rinpoche and Dhondup did not have access to a fair and open trial, and that the proceedings were dominated by political considerations.

For example, on December 6 an unidentified woman at the Ganzi Intermediate People's Court was asked how many people attended the trial, and was also asked for the names and telephone numbers of the defendants’ lawyers. She replied, “No one attended the trial, and I don’t know the names of the lawyers,” before quickly hanging up the phone.

An official at the Ganzi Government Propaganda Department said she was unclear about the trial proceedings, which she said were conducted by provincial authorities. An official of the Sichuan Provincial Committee referred our source to the Provincial Propaganda Department, but no one at that office answered the telephone. Another Ganzi official confirmed that several days before the court verdict on December 2 Sichuan provincial officials had converged in Ganzi to decide on a unified public position regarding the case.

A number of sources described the case as complicated and raised the possibility that the respected Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had been framed. The writer Wang Lixiong has visited Rinpoche at his monastery, and found it difficult to believe that Rinpoche was capable of such a crime. Sources describe Rinpoche as deeply revered among the Tibetans of Ganzi, where he had established schools and homes for the elderly, and had arranged repairs of roads and bridges and generally worked to improve quality of life among his people, while living in humble poverty himself. Rinpoche also instructed his followers to give up smoking, drinking, and gambling, and prohibited the taking of life.

Chinese officials have refused to acknowledge Rinpoche as a lama since he went into exile in India in the 1980s. Ganzi officials and police had previously sought to take action against Rinpoche on a number of occasions, but were prevented by wide-scale protests among local Tibetans. Prior to Rinpoche’s secret trial Ganzi officials carried out several campaigns including one that stated, “Whoever supports Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is an accessory to his crime.”

HRIC is troubled by the strong political atmosphere surrounding this case, and the complete lack of an open, fair and independent trial. HRIC president Liu Qing says, “This trial is a classic example of China’s ‘black box’ system in which it’s impossible to monitor whether the human rights of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and the others have been adequately protected. It’s unconscionable to impose a death sentence under such conditions.”

HRIC calls for a repeal of the death sentences against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and Lobsang Dhondup, and a fair, open and independent retrial of all the defendants in strict adherence to due process and proper legal procedure. HRIC also urges the international community to take note of this case and press the Chinese authorities for a retrial.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher 212-268-9074 (English)
Liu Qing 212-239-4495 (Chinese)