10 YEARS TOO LONG; TIBETANS ESCALATE CAMPAIGN FOR RELEASE OF INNOCENT BUDDHIST LEADER ON ANNIVERSARY OF HIS ARREST
Top Chinese official Zhou Yongkhang targeted for his role in Tenzin Delek’s imprisonment
Dharamsala– On the 10-year anniversary of his arrest, Tibetans and their supporters worldwide have vowed to escalate the campaign for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly revered Buddhist leader framed and subsequently imprisoned by Chinese authorities for crimes he did not commit. This week thousands of letters appealing for Tenzin Delek’s release have been sent to Zhou Yongkang, the Politburo Standing Committee member who is currently facing speculation of a connection to the Bo Xilai scandal that rocked China last month. Zhou was Sichuan Party Secretary in 2002 when Tenzin Delek was arrested for his alleged involvement in a series of explosions in Chengdu; allegations that are unproven to this day.
In a global campaign effort today, Students for a Free Tibet –India is gathering signatures in McLeod Ganj and several other Indian cities for a worldwide petition demanding Tenzin Delek’s immediate and unconditional release.
“On this day 10 years ago, Chinese authorities arrested Tenzin Delek Rinpoche for the simple fact that he was a Tibetan whose influence was growing because of his social work and community leadership. He has since been a prisoner of the Chinese state, and every day he spends in prison is one day too many,” said Tenzin Dolkar, Grassroots Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet-India.
Zhou Yongkang served as the Party Secretary of Sichuan from 1999 to 2002, during which time Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was arrested and sentenced to death in a closed-door trial on bombing charges. After a high-profile global campaign to save his life, China commuted Tenzin Delek’s death sentence to life imprisonment in 2004. Shortly after Tenzin Delek’s conviction Zhou was promoted as Minister of Public Security. In his current position as head of the the powerful Central Political and Legislative Committee, Zhou oversees China’s security forces and law enforcement institutions and has the authority to order Tenzin Delek’s release.
“Zhou Yongkang boosted his career by overseeing the politically motivated arrest and imprisonment of Tenzin Delek, a strong advocate of Tibetan cultural and religious rights. Zhou may sit at the top of China’s authoritarian hierarchy but he will face escalating global pressure and scrutiny until he orders the release of Tenzin Delek. This innocent man should not suffer one more day in prison,” said Tenzin Jigdal, Program Director of Students for a Free Tibet-India. “Tenzin Delek is innocent. Zhou Yongkang is the real criminal responsible for the outright repression of an innocent Tibetan monk. We demand this injustice be immediately rectified.”
Due to the torture and abuse Tenzin Delek has suffered in prison, his health has deteriorated in the past ten years. He suffers from a heart condition and high blood pressure for which he is not receiving proper medical attention. Tenzin Delek’s relatives, students, and local Tibetans are actively petitioning for the release of Tenzin Delek. In 2009, in a remarkable act of support and bravery, 40,000 Tibetans inside Tibet signed petitions demanding justice for their Buddhist leader.
The global petition for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche comes as protests inside Tibet are intensifying with thousands of Tibetans taking to the streets since January 2012. These demonstrations are part of an unprecedented wave of political protests, including 33 Tibetans who have self-immolated since 2009 in an effort to bring attention to the oppressive realities inside Tibet.
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In 2002, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche together with his relative Lobsang Dondhup were arrested and accused of involvement in bombings and explosions. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension, but Lobsang Dondhup was sentenced to immediate death and executed in early 2003. Thousands of people around the world advocated for the release of Tenzin Delek and after years of intense campaigning, his sentence was finally commuted to life imprisonment in 2005. Now, ten years after his arrest, he is still serving a life sentence for crimes he did not commit.