Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche

Bangri Rinpoche and his wife Nyima founded an orphanage for Lhasa's deprived children in 1996 and were well-respected pillars of the Tibetan community. They were arrested in 1999 for 'attempting to split the country'.

'Illegal organisation'

The exact circumstances leading to their arrest remain unclear. However, it is believed that a worker at the orphanage was arrested for trying to raise a Tibetan flag and detonated explosives strapped to his person in protest during the 1999 National Minority Games.

Many people with connections to the orphanage were then arrested, including Rinpoche and his wife.  

The orphanage was declared an illegal organisation and the children were evicted, facing a harsh life on Lhasa's streets.


Bangri Rinpoche was interrogated for five days and nights.

Confession of his "crime" was extracted by torture.

He was hooded and handcuffed with one hand behind his shoulder and the other around his waist. His legs were also fettered and he was forced to kneel on a low stool.

Bangri Rinpoche is due for release in 2021.

Rinpoche's wife

Nyima, a former nun, was initially sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in Drapchi Prison.

Former political prisoner Ngawang Sangdrol reported that Nyima spent her first year in solitary confinement.

Her sentence was then reduced to seven years and in February 2006, she was released.

Hard-line stance

There are parallels in the case of Bangri Rinpoche and Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche. Both appear to reflect a harder-line trend of undermining local community leadership by severely punishing those whose work focuses on Tibetan language, culture and religion, even though Bangri and Tenzin were not known to speak out about Tibetan independence.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Dr Manfred Nowak, has called for Bangri Rinpoche's immediate release.

Free Tibet's Robed Resisters Campaign

Bangri Tsamtrul Rinpoche's case was the focus of a Free Tibet campaign, which drew more than 800 supporters to write him solidarity messages as well as hundreds signing letters to local Chinese authorities. We have continued to highlight and monitor his case, including at the UN Committee Against Torture in November 2015.

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