Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Statue of revered Tenzin Delek Rinpoche seized by Chinese authorities

A life-sized statue of the late Tibetan incarnate monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was seized by Chinese authorities in Dartsedo in July 2021

Five people involved in arranging its transport were detained and beaten for 15 to 30 days

A life-sized statue of the late Tibetan incarnate monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was seized by Chinese authorities in Dartsedo in July 2021.

Four Tibetan and one Chinese – arranging its transport were also arrested in the same month, and detained for periods between 15 and 30 days, during which they were interrogated, beaten and released with firm warning to avoid contacting families and people close to Tenzin Delek.

Statue of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Statue of the late Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Yarphel, a student of the revered spiritual leader, explained to Tibet Watch that the initial plan was to transport the statue to south India, where many of his disciples are currently living in exile. They collectively raised 80,000 yuan to sponsor the clay sculpture, which the artists started making in July 2020, five years after Tenzin Delek was hastily cremated in a detention centre, despite his family’s appeal.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died under mysterious circumstances in a Sichuan prison on 12 July 2015, 13 years into his 22-year sentence for his alleged involvement in a series of unsolved bombings at a public square in Chengdu in 2002. Local Tibetans believe these accusations were false and an excuse to persecute the revered figure, who was a vocal critic of Chinese repression in Tibet.

After the artists in the coastal city of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, completed the statue on 7 June 2021, it was first brought to Dartsedo (Ch: Kangding), a landlocked city in the eastern Tibetan province of Kham. “[B]ut after Dartsedo security personnel learned of the plan, they arrested Kelsang Tsering and three other Tibetans who went to pick up the statue and a Chinese man who brought the statue to Dartsedo was detained”, Yarphel explained. They were told by the Chinese authorities that valid permission was required to transport a statue of the human form.

The security personnel then followed up with search operations in Lithang at the house of Nyima Lhamo, his niece who escaped into exile in summer 2016 and has since been giving testimonies about the false charges the Chinese government made against her beloved uncle.

Speaking from the United States, where she currently resides, Nyima confirmed to Tibet Watch that her home in Lithang was raided by security personnel in September last year. She also reported that they confiscated photos of the Dalai Lama, her late uncle and other revered Buddhist figures, and hers as well.

Furthermore, she said, “my mother and two cousins were arrested and kept in detention for many days. They were repeatedly interrogated and asked what they had discussed with me. They have been warned and informed that they are forbidden to contact me.

Information supplied by Tibet Watch

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