By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, MAR 20: A former Tibetan political prisoner has died on Monday, allegedly due to injuries sustained while serving a prison sentence in Lithang.
Tashi Phuntsok, 60, had carried out protests against deforestation and was imprisoned by China. He was falsely accused of colluding with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, the prime accused in a series of bomb explosions in Chengdu city in 2002.
“He was severely beaten while in prison and he became chronically ill after release from jail. He passed away on March 17th in Lithang county,” said Geshi Tsering Dorjee from Drepung Gomang Monastery in southern India. Dorjee confirmed that Tashi Phuntsok’s deteriorating health led to his early release from prison.
Dorjee further added, “Initially, Tashi Phuntsok was arrested, sentenced to seven years, and jailed at Yakra Phuk prison in Dartsedo (Kangding). But after one year he was returned to his family in very poor health due to torture he sustained while in prison. He was in a near death situation when he returned.”
Pro-Tibet advocacy group ICT said that three of his close aides now living in exile had confirmed his death. At his monastery, Tashi Phuntsok undertook responsibilities as a administrator (Chagzoed) for ten years before assuming a role as a disciplinarian.
Local Tibetans believe that the authorities framed Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on account of his social activism along with Tashi Phuntsok who had also been in the forefront since 1993, protesting deforestation by China in his region. At the time of his arrest, he suffered from pulmonary conditions that deteriorated sharply during the course of his imprisonment. He was released prematurely after less than two years in prison as the authorities feared his death under their watch.