By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 18: The revered Tibetan religious leader and community figure Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s life-size statue was seized by the Chinese police in June last year, which led to several arrests of those involved in manufacturing and transporting the statue. Radio Free Asia service reported that the statue was commissioned by the late monk’s students and was built by artists in Shenzhen, China on demand, according to Tenzin Yarphel, one of Rinpoche’s students living in Europe.
Chinese authorities seized the statue last year in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture when it was enroute to Lithang, the monk’s home county. “The initial plan was to bring Rinpoche’s statue to India, but there were too many restrictions against sending it there, so it had to be brought to Tibet and hidden away until the right opportunity to move it arose,” Yarphel further said.
A Tibetan man named Kalsang Tsering and his unnamed assistant was taken into custody; their whereabouts remained unknown for a long time as local residents began to distribute flyers for their information. Chinese police later subsequently said they were both in custody, the source said, adding that the two men were interrogated and beaten for about 20 days.
Two Tibetan and Chinese men who brought the statue to Dartsedo were also detained by the police in custody for almost 20 days. The police further arrested the Tibetan man who first arranged the life-size statue construction in Shenzhen and kept him in prison for almost a month. Subsequently, about 20 Lithang officers also raided Rinpoche’s younger sister Dolkar Lhamo’s home in September to destroy the family shrine and took away all photos of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other relics, along with his niece Nyima Lhamo’s photo. Another source confirmed that his younger sister Dolkar and other family members were detained about 18 days and were also beaten and tortured while being interrogated about the statue.
The revered lama, Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, died under mysterious circumstances in a Sichuan prison on July 12, 2015 after 13 years into his 22-year sentence for his alleged involvement in a series of unsolved bombings at a public square in Chengdu in 2002. However, Tibetans say that he was targeted for his role as a religious and community leader who was an outspoken voice for local Tibetans and their rights against the face of repressive Chinese policies.