China arrests another spiritual master in eastern Tibet
16 April, 2002
The Central Tibetan Administration deplore the Chinese government’s action to arrest Tenzin Delek Rinpoche of Lithang, Kham, and four other people. “Venerable Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a hugely popular figure, has been involved in bringing spiritual renaissance to Tibet for a number of years. The arrest of such a highly revered spiritual teacher will only serve to alienate the Tibetan people further,” said Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, chairman of the Kashag, the highest executive body of the Tibetan Administration in exile.
The police picked up Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and his four followers from Rinpoche’s monastery in Nyachu county (not to be mistaken with Nagchu), Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, on the night of 7 April. They were accused of masterminding last year’s bomb blast in Chengdu. Sources in Tibet maintain that the charges were fabricated, and that the real reasons were Rinpoche’s growing popularity and his steadfast loyalty to the Dalai Lama.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has since long challenged Chinese policies in Tibet. On the recognition of the 11th Panchen Lama, he told the authorities that if they tried to foist their candidate on Tibetans, the people would reject him and resent the Chinese government. Recognition of the Panchen Lama reincarnation, he said, is the prerogative of the Dalai Lama alone.
In another incident, when the authorities warned him against displaying the picture of the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche said, “The Dalai Lama is my soul. This fact will not change even if you force me to stop displaying his photo.”
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s spiritual attainment and his practical efforts for Tibetans in eastern Tibet have earned him enormous respect. His service for the people of eastern Tibet includes rebuilding monastic institutes, establishing schools, old people’s homes, etc. Similarly, he has campaigned against the Chinese logging activities in Tibet. Many of his efforts, such as the 1990 plan to build a school and old people’s home in the nomadic area of Thang Karma, were thwarted by the Chinese authorities.
In 1997 the authorities in “Karze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” convened a special meeting and drew up a six-point arrest warrant against Rinpoche. The warrant charged him of going against the nation, “hosting the flag of lamaism and religion”, and building monasteries without permission from the government”. Rinpoche escaped to the mountains for about five months. In the meanwhile, about 30,000 people signed a campaign letter on behalf of Rinpoche. The campaign helped to pressure the authorities to rescind the decision for his arrest.
Last year, a fight between two monadic communities over grazing rights claimed several lives. As this fight was threatening to spiral out of control, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche mediated and managed to restore peace. Angered by Rinpoche’s growing popularity, the authorities accused him of settling “legal cases and building schools” without permission from the State. When it became clear that his arrest was imminent, Rinpoche escaped to the mountains once again, this time for seven months. He left behind a taped message, “I have not committed any political crime. Every so often, I receive calls from the police, asking me to come to the police station to face interrogation. Of course, they want to arrest me. You, the people, should take my case to the court. I will come back as soon as they exonerate me.”
The people conducted signature campaigns on his behalf. Two campaign letters, each signed by 20,000 people, were sent to Beijing. Beijing replied that Rinpoche would not be imprisoned if he had not committed any political crime. “However, he must not propagate religion and travel around on spiritual missions. He should confine himself in one area and live as an ordinary monk,” the instruction from Beijing said.
The four people arrested with Rinpoche are Tsultrim Dhargye, Tamdin Tsering, Asher Dhargye, and Thondup. Thondup is a lay person and the others are monks.
Sonam N. Dagpo
Department of Information and International Relations
Central Tibetan Administration