On November 28, 2016, Nyima Lhamo, the niece of the late Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (who died in Chinese prison in unclear circumstances on 12 July 2015 while serving a life sentence), addressed the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights. Below is the transcript of her testimony. You can also find a recording of her address here.
My name is Nyima Lhamo and I am the niece of late Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. I was born in Kham Lithang in eastern Tibet. I am 26 years old and am the second born of five siblings. I have a six-year old daughter and her name is Dawa Dolma. My father Thupten Kalsang is no more. With my mother Dolkar Lhamo are elder sister Tenzin Palmo who has a nine-year old son and two younger brothers. My youngest sister has also passed away.
My uncle Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was a highly respected lama in our village. He was falsely accused and unlawfully detained by the Chinese authorities leading to his death while serving his life sentence in jail on 12 July 2015 in Chengdu. ￼known for his philanthropic works in eastern Tibet where he established ￼schools, clinics, orphanages, and old-age homes. I consider my uncle as my teacher ￼who taught me the real meaning of being a Tibetan Buddhist, someone who always ￼helped others in need and had no ill intentions toward others. So when I heard the ￼news of his arrest in 2002, I was 12 years old and the first thing that came to my mind ￼was he would be released soon since he had not committed any crime. However I was wrong. Justice was not done in my uncle’s case. He was falsely accused and unlawfully detained by the Chinese authorities leading to his death while serving his
life sentence in jail on 12 July 2015 in Chengdu.
While growing up in Tibet it was common to hear such sad instances of Tibetans ￼dying in Chinese prisons without justice being done to them. I know there are many ￼other Tibetans who continue to face the same fate as my uncle. So with a lot of ￼difficulties and hardship I escaped Tibet but for a very important reason; to share the ￼suffering of my late uncle Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and that of other political prisoners in Tibet, who continue to suffer under the repressive Chinese rule.
It is a wonderful feeling to be here and experience the freedom that I have always yearned for. I feel extremely happy to be in front of all of you and I am most grateful to you for giving me this opportunity to speak.
Today I would like to emphasize on two points and one hope regarding my uncle Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s case. My two points are of the circumstances surrounding before and after my uncle’s death. First I would like to speak about the situation before my uncle’s death.
My uncle Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has never committed any offense against the law of the nation. However, he was falsely accused by the Chinese authorities and was imprisoned for 13 years and the authorities denied every appeal made by Rinpoche and his supporters for his release.
On 2 July 2015, ten days before Rinpoche’s death, we were informed that we could meet Rinpoche. Hence my mother and my aunt left immediately for Chengdu. However, after reaching there the prison authorities kept postponing the visit for 10 days. At around 10 pm on 12 July, they were informed of Rinpoche’s death. I received a call from my mother saying that Rinpoche had passed away. Immediately thereafter with a lot of difficulty, I left for Chengdu. As soon as I reached Chengdu, my mother, my aunt, I and some other people protested against the authorities for not allowing us to see and claim Rinpoche’s body. We shouted “you killed Rinpoche, if you didn’t kill him, give us the medical certificates.” My mother hit her head against the wall and shouted for evidence to prove Rinpoche’s death. We protested in front of the officials asking them, “if we belong to “one nation” as you claim it, then why are we being treated differently? Why do you have two policies for the so-called “one nation?” Then I attempted suicide by tying scarf around my neck. Alarmed by our protest, the prison authorities let us into the prison office. Subsequently, they asked us to tell them our concerns. So we wrote our concerns; first, we requested them to preserve Rinpoche’s body for 15 days in accordance with Chinese law. Second, if Rinpoche died of natural cause as claimed by the authorities, we want the medical certificates. Third, we want clear information on who ordered Rinpoche’s body to be burnt and not returned to our family. Finally, we will not carry any further appeals or petitions against the authorities regarding Rinpoche’s case, if his body is handed to our family. However, none of our concerns were addressed, moreover they informed us that they would burn Rinpoche’s body at 7:00am the next day against our wishes.
Later they let us in briefly to see Rinpoche’s body. After seeing his body, I have six reasons to believe that my uncle was poisoned to death in prison. First, the prison authorities did not allow my mother to meet Rinpoche and kept postponing the visit for 10 days. Second, they did not provide any medical documents or death certificate to corroborate the claim that Rinpoche died of a natural cause. Third, the government officials denied our request that Rinpoche’s body be preserved for 15 days in accordance with the Chinese law. Fourth, the time of death cited by the authorities kept changing with one version stating that it occurred at 2pm and other at 4pm. Fifth, in violation of Chinese law, neither Rinpoche’s body nor his ashes were returned to my family. Finally, when they let us see Rinpoche’s body briefly, I noticed that his lips were black and even the monks who had cleaned Rinpoche’s body said his fingers and toenails were black.
My second point is regarding the circumstances following Rinpoche’s death and the situation in Lithang now.
After Rinpoche’s death the Chinese authorities continued to dishonor him in the following manners. First, the Chinese authorities distributed Pamphlets and aired false and distorted information on Television, such as, Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is a fake lama, a criminal, and that he was a threat to the so-called “social stability”. Second, my family and local Tibetans were not allowed to offer traditional butter lamp and organise public prayer in memory of Rinpoche. Third, the local authorities did not allow building of a memorial stupa for Rinpoche. Fourth, I have also heard that authorities in Nyagchuka (Chinese: Yajiang) are attempting to manipulate the reincarnation of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche like the Chinese authorities did in the case of 11th Panchen Lama. Fifth, pictures of Rinpoche were banned in Lithang. Finally, Rinpoche’s belongings including his money were confiscated and were told they will be burnt.
These are the two points I wanted to share with you today.
I feel very lucky and happy to be speaking in front of all of you today. An opportunity like this, to speak freely, is a long cherished aspiration of every Tibetans inside Tibet. I believe it is important for the free world to know the injustices suffered by the Tibetans in Tibet. I sincerely hope that their voices are heard and justice be done to them.
I fled Tibet leaving my family including my six-year old daughter behind. I know my speaking here might jeopardize my family’s safety in Tibet. Despite that I am taking all the risks and speaking in front of you today with a sincere hope and appeal to the International Community to prevail upon the Chinese government to carry out a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of my uncle Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. More importantly, I do this as Rinpoche had advised his sister during their last meeting in prison to appeal for his case whenever possible and not get embarrassed if in case they had to beg for financial assistance.
Last but not least, on behalf of Rinpoche, my family and his supporters, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the European Parliament for passing resolutions on Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in 2004 and 2005 and other resolutions passed in 2002 and 2003 expressing your concerns on the imprisonment of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and urging China for his release. I sincerely hope that you will use every possible political and diplomatic instrument to raise the issue of Tibet with your Chinese counterparts.