Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died in Chinese prison

Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died in Chinese prison

Free Tibet confirmed the death in prison of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on Sunday 12 July 2015. He had recently been denied medical parole despite serious health problems.

Arrested in April 2002 for alleged involvement in a bomb explosion, community leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (pictured) and his colleague Lobsang Dhondup were sentenced to death in December 2002.

Despite an appeal, Lobsang was executed on 26 January 2003 and Rinpoche’s death sentence was suspended and changed to life imprisonment in January 2005.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche continued to protest his innocence right up until his death. No evidence of his involvement has ever been produced.

The Rinpoche was a respected local leader known for his activism for the well-being of Tibetans and his work with schools and orphanages.

Further Disappearances

To date, sixteen Tibetans connected to this case have been detained, arrested or have disappeared – some for trying to alert the outside world about the situation. Following international pressure, five were released.


After Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s family failed to secure a review of the case, a series of protests took place in his home town of Lithang in December 2009. Shops closed in support as 40,000 Tibetans signed a petition to free Tenzin – others used red thumbprints.

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"Since I am a Tibetan, I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetan people. That is the real reason why the Chinese do not like me and framed me. That is why they are going to take my precious life even though I am innocent."
– Tenzin Delek Rinpoche
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