Tibetan environmental activist dies in hospital following treatment in prison

Kunchok Jinpa
Kunchok Jinpa
18th February 2021

Kunchok Jinpa, who participated in huge protests in Driru in 2013, died earlier this month

Free Tibet has received news that a Tibetan tour guide and environmental activist died earlier this month following injuries sustained in prison. Kunchok Jinpa,  from Chaktse Village in Driru, a county in Nagchu Prefecture, had been serving a 21-year prison sentence when he was secretly taken to hospital in November with severe injuries. He was 51 years old.

Kunchok Jinpa’s arrest stemmed from protests against a mining project at Naghla Dzambha Mountain in Driru in 2013. According to Tibet Watch’s sources, local authorities tried to begin mining activities at the Naghla Dzambha Mountain in October 2013. The mountain is considered a holy and sacred site and the plans to carry out mining there prompted thousands of Tibetans to protest. The demonstrations were met with a violent crackdown in which thousands were arrested. Kunchok Jinpa shared information of these non-violent protests with the Tibetan community in India. He also called for environmental protection and a ban on mining in the region.

Meanwhile, Driru County was subjected to further harsh measures including further mass arrests, more intensive surveillance measures and numerous propaganda campaigns. All communication channels were restricted and the Internet was shut down. Villagers were forced to fly the Chinese flag outside their home and those Tibetans who refused to comply were arrested. Protests spread to other parts of the region. Due to the severe restrictions and block on communications, the whereabouts and condition of thousands of those who have been arrested in these protests remains unknown to this day.

Image of the protests against mining at Naghla Dzambha Mountain in Driru County
Image of the protests against mining at Naghla Dzambha Mountain in Driru County

Kunchok Jinpa’s family members were not informed of his arrest, or of his secret trial, in which he was found guilty of leaking state secrets and handed a sentence of 21 years in prison.

In November 2020, Kunchok Jinpa  was taken from prison to hospital in Lhasa, again without the knowledge of his family. Sources state he was suffering from a brain haemorrhage and paralysis.  He died on 6 February 2021. His death follows that of Tenzin Nyima in January, who also died in hospital  following his treatment in hospital.

Kunchok Jinpa enrolled for monastic education at the very young age in Chokhor Jampa Ling monastery in Tibet. In October 1989, he fled to India via Nepal, continuing as a monk at Jangchup-Ling monastery Drikung Kagyu. He later disrobed get enrolled in Suja Tibetan Children Village School at Bir on April 1991. In 1996, he joined The Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarnath, Varanasi. In 1998, he returned to Tibet where he lived the rest of his life, save for several visits to India. His last visit to India was in 2012, when he attended the Kalachakra teaching of the Dalai Lama in Gaya, India.

He was proficient in various languages, namely Tibetan, English, Hindi and Chinese, and was regarded highly by the people from his region.

The year of his arrest, in April 2013, Kunchok Jinpa posted a message on his WeChat account saying:

 "I am now at the bank of a river. There are many people behind me watching me, and I am sure to be arrested. Even if they arrest me, I am not afraid, even if they kill me, I have no regrets. But from now on, I will not be able to give reports. If there is no word from me, that means I have been arrested.”

Information supplied by Tibet Watch.

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