Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tenzin Delek Rinpoche suffered a heart attack after he refused to see doctors or take his medicine, the Xinhua news agency reported. The agency said a guard noticed that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was not breathing after he took a nap at around midday on July 12.
“Doctors of the hospital’s emergency centre came to rescue and sent him for further treatment in the hospital’s ICU [intensive care unit],” Xinhua said, adding he was declared dead about an hour later.
“His right to health care has been guaranteed since his imprisonment but “many times, [he] either refused to see doctors or take medicine, fluctuating his symptoms,” the agency added.
The Tibetan lama, 65, died in the Dazhu County People’s Hospital in southwest China’s Sichuan province, near the prison where he had been serving a life sentence for “crimes of terror and incitement of separatism.”
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s sister, Dolkar Lhamo, 55, said on Thursday he had been cremated against his family’s wishes and in violation of Tibetan Buddhist traditions. She also said officials had not told her the cause of his death, adding to her suspicions.
Police in south-western China’s Sichuan province detained Tenzin’s sister, Dolkar Lhamo, and niece Nyima Lhamo, 25. The two were detained in the provincial capital Chengdu at about 8:00 am on July 17.
“No reason was given for their detention,” a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, “but local people believe they were suspected of having shared information related to the death of Rinpoche with other people”.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was a supporter of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader who has been by Beijing of being a dangerous separatist.
He was sentenced to death in December 2002 along with 28-year-old activist Lobsang Dhondup for a bomb attack in Chengdu in April of that year that killed one person and wounded a second. Chinese officials always refused to hold an open trial (in violation of Chinese law) or make public the verdict or indictment.
In recent days, thousands of Tibetans have rallied in different provinces of the country to demand the return of Tenzin’s body, but Chinese police has refused.
After pro-Tenzin demonstrations took place in New York and San Francisco, the US State Department called on Chinese authorities to investigate and make public the circumstances of the lama’s death.