China hands a death sentence and a suspended death sentence to two Tibetans for carrying out a series of bomb blasts in the country's southwest. One of those convicted appears to be an influential Buddhist leader.
The semi-official China News Service says a court in China's southwestern province, Sichuan, has convicted two ethnic Tibetans of promoting independence, setting off bombs and illegally possessing explosives.
The men were charged with setting off a bomb in a park in Sichuan's capital, Chengdu, in April, which injured several people. The news service says the men also carried out two bombings last year in the Ganzi region of Sichuan.
The China News Service identifies the men by their Chinese names only. Luorang Dengzhu was handed a death sentence on Monday, and the other was given a suspended death sentence. Such sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment.
Dominique Muller, a researcher for the rights group Amnesty International in Hong Kong, says the man given the suspended death sentence appears to be Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, an influential Buddhist. "He's a senior Tibetan religious teacher who was arrested in April, allegedly in connection with bomb explosions," she says. "We do know that Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche has been detained before in connection with the establishment of a children's school in the region, for Tibetan and Chinese children and also orphans."
Ms. Muller says Tenzin's past detentions appear related to his religious and community activities. But she says her group has yet to conduct a thorough investigation into the latest charges against him.
Sichuan Province lies just west of Tibet and is heavily populated with ethnic Tibetans. Over the past decade, a number of militants opposed to Chinese Communist rule have carried out bombings in Tibet, Sichuan and other nearby areas.
People's Liberation Army troops have imposed an often brutal rule over the Himalayan region since 1950.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao told a Beijing news conference Thursday only that he had seen reports about the sentences, and that he believed Chinese courts would handle the case according to law.