Human rights group asks China to halt Tibetan monk’s execution

Buddhist News Network: Human Rights Watch on Monday exhorted China to overturn a terrorism conviction against a well-known Tibetan monk and halt plans to execute him “on what appear to be trumped-up bombing charges.”

In a report prepared for release Monday, Human Rights Watch said the Tibetan monk, Tenzin Delek, appears to have been targeted for death as a champion of Tibetan Buddhists and a loyal follower of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader living in exile in India.

A Chinese court convicted Tenzin Delek, 50, and an alleged co-conspirator of terrorism for a series of bombings in 2001 and 2002, including one in the city of Chengdu that seriously injured one person.

“The trial was procedurally flawed, the court was neither independent nor impartial, and the defendants were denied access to independent legal counsel,” said Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York City.

China has attempted to diminish the role of Buddhist religion and culture in the lives of Tibetans, and closely controls all religious activity. It bans some Christian and Muslim groups and labels Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that gained millions of adherents in the late 1990s, as an “evil cult.”

But the possible execution of a Tibetan Buddhist leader is likely to bring China renewed global scrutiny of its repression of religion and its use of the death penalty.

China executes more people each year than the rest of the world combined, according to human rights monitors, usually with a gunshot to the back of the head.

The convicted Tibetan monk, Tenzin Delek, is known by his followers as a tulku, or reincarnation of a revered monk, or lama, in his native region in China’s southern Sichuan province bordering the Tibet Autonomous Region. He also carries the honorific “rinpoche,” which means “precious jewel.”

His popularity among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan grew as he helped build new monasteries, small schools, medical clinics, an orphanage and old-age homes, Human Rights Watch said.

“Tenzin Delek was an advocate for the social, cultural, economic and religious rights of local residents,” the 110-page report said.

“He took a public position on harmful environmental practices in the area and expressed views that had been outlawed by the central government … such as loyalty to the Dalai Lama and other forbidden religious ideas,” the report said.

Security agents arrested the monk at the Jamyang Choekhorling monastery four days after the Chengdu bombing on April 3, 2002, the report said.

After an alleged co-conspirator in the bombings, Lobsang Dondrup, was executed in January 2003, Britain, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Poland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States promptly decried the action.

Both Lobsang Dondrup and Tenzin Delek declared their innocence in the bombings. Tenzin Delek was sentenced to death, but the sentence was suspended for two years. An appeal was denied early in 2003 and his death is likely to occur later this year.

Human Rights Watch called on China to free Tenzin Delek, release all evidence in the case against the two men, and allow a “credible, independent investigation” into their arrest and trial.

It also called for China to “end the practice of holding secret or closed trials or appeals (and) allow family members, journalists, and independent observers to attend all court proceedings.”

The report noted that Tenzin Delek lived in India from 1982 to 1987, where the Dalai Lama and some 100,000 Tibetans fled into exile in 1959 after Chinese troops crushed uprisings on the Tibetan plateau, and that his prestige upon returning to Sichuan “may have alarmed Chinese officials.”

The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

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