WASHINGTON - Five days after well-known Tibetan political prisoner Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in prison in Sichuan province, another Tibetan died while serving a two-year sentence near Lhasa, his family tells VOA.
Sonam Wangchuk, says his father-in-law, environmental activist Lobsang Yeshi (Chinese name: Luosang Yixi), died July 17 in a hospital while being treated for a head injury from what he said was torture during detention in Dzogang County, from where Yeshi was transferred to Chushul Prison earlier this year.
Bangchen, a Tibetan newspaper in India, reports Yeshi was detained in May 2014, two days after a protest against Chinese mining took place near the Salwan River. At that protest, one man committed suicide by jumping off a building and another man stabbed himself.
Yeshi, who was the village chief at the time, and six other Tibetans, were taken to a detention center where they were kept for almost a year.
“They were initially told that it was just for a talk when they were taken to the county seat,” Wangchuk told VOA. “But they were kept in the county detention center nearly a year, during which they were tortured and interrogated.”
Each man had received a two-year sentence.
Yeshi's son-in-law, who lives in India, told VOA’s Tibetan Service only one monk was allowed to go into the hospital to conduct a prayer service, and two of his family members were permitted to attend the cremation on Tuesday.
Chinese authorities have not yet commented on the death.
Questions about Rinpoche’s death remain
Earlier this month, leading activist Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died while serving a life sentence.
After talking to relatives abroad and demanding Chinese authorities return Rinpoche’s body, his sister, Dolkar Lhamo, and her daughter Sonam Dekyi have been missing since last Friday. Police detained them in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu. Dolkar Lhamo circulated a statement in which she said the circumstance of her brother’s death was suspicious and authorities were not consistent in explaining Rinpoche’s death.
“If the prison authorities don’t make a clear explanation about the death, we are going to call the reporters and relevant people to investigate the cause of the death,” she wrote in Chinese. “If the body is allowed to be taken home, we, the family members and faithful followers, won’t make further complaint.”
The United States, Canada and Britain called for Rinpoche’s body to be returned to his family or monastery. But Chinese authorities decided to cremate it last Friday after allowing about 30 Tibetans to see the body and conduct a short prayer in the prison.
Rinpoche’s ashes were initially given to four representatives of his family and the monastery, but the remains were allegedly snatched up by police at the border of an ethnic Tibetan area as the group traveled home.
“The response of the Chinese authorities certainly is not keeping with what we expect,” said Andrew Bennett, Ambassador for Religious Freedom at Canada’s Foreign Affairs, speaking Thursday to VOA Tibetan Service.
Chinese official news agency Xinhua said Saturday Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (Chinese name: A’an Zhaxi) was found suffering respiratory failure after taking a nap and was received for emergency treatment in a hospital, but died a couple hours later.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA’s Tibetan Service.