Niece of Revered Tibetan Monk Escapes China a Year After Uncle’s Death in Jail

The niece of a popular Tibetan monk who died in July 2015 under suspicious circumstances in a Chinese prison has fled China and arrived in Dharamsala, India at the weekend, supporters of the monk and his family said on Wednesday.

Nyima Lhamo is the niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who died aged 65 in the 13th year of a life sentence imposed for what rights groups and supporters have described as a wrongful conviction on a bombing charge. He was widely respected among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment.

“She has safely arrived in Dharamsala on Sunday morning, July 24th and is now residing at the Tibetan Reception Center in good health,” Lobsang Yonten, a close aide to the family, told RFA’s Tibetan Service in an interview on Wednesday.

Exile groups in Dharamsala, home to the Tibetan government in exile as well as spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, welcomed Lhamo, he said.

Lhamo and her mother, Dolkar Lhamo, were detained for two weeks in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu a year ago on suspicion of having shared information related to the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, with contacts outside the area. Dolkar Lhamo is the deceased monk’s sister.

“She passed through Nepal to New Delhi and Dharamsala under the special travel arrangement of the Tibetan Reception Center,” said Geshe Tenpa, a U.S-based advocate of Tenzin Delek.

“Nyima Lhamo had been at the forefront of advocating and assisting Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s cause during his detention,” he said.

Geshe Tenpa added that the niece, believed to be in her mid-twenties, “knows inside information of the circumstances leading to Rinpoche’s death and incarceration, so having her safely arrive in exile is a tremendous joy.”

Respected monk

Recognized by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnated lama in the 1980s, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche had been a community leader and a staunch advocate for the protection and preservation of Tibetan culture, religion, and way of life for decades, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) had said.

Rinpoche was charged with involvement in an April 3, 2002 bombing in the central square of the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu and was initially sentenced to death in December that year along with an assistant, Lobsang Dondrub.

His death sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, but Lobsang Dondrub was executed almost immediately, prompting an outcry from rights activists who questioned the fairness of the trial.

In July 2015, Chinese police informed Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s relatives that he was seriously ill, but when they rushed to visit him, they were told he was already dead, sources told RFA at the time. Despite protests from his family, prison authorities cremated Rinpoche’s remains four days after his death.

Following the death authorities then began conducting political re-education activities in Nyagchuka (in Chinese, Yajiang) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and instructing residents not to talk about it, sources said last year.