09/04/2014, 00.00
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Tibet, living Buddha left "unrecognizable" from torture after arrest during 2008 protests

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, a much loved and highly respected lama from the Tibetan Buddhist community, is in serious condition, weak and emaciated. The first religious leader to go to jail after the riots of March 2008, he was sentenced to eight years in prison thanks to a confession extorted by violence.

Lhasa (AsiaNews) - Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, a much loved "living Buddha" from the Tibetan Buddhist community, "is unrecognizable. After five years in jail he is emaciated and very weak. His condition has worsened", warns the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), which succeeded in contacting the monk in the Sichuan prison where he is being held.

Phurbu, a highly esteemed and respected lama, has been in jail since May 18, 2008 on charges of illegal possession of a gun and some bullets, found at his home in Kardze (Ganzi) by police during a search. The monk was targeted because authorities consider him one of the instigators of anti-Chinese riots that rocked the province in March 2008.

The protests were born March 10, 2008, when hundreds of people - which became thousands over time - demonstrated in Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet to commemorate the victims of the bloody crackdown of 1959, implemented by the Communist government against the Tibetan population who sought the restoration of their independence. During those riots, the Dalai Lama - the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism - was forced into exile. According to the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, there were "hundreds" of victims. According to Beijing, only 13 people died.

The monks trial took place in December 2009, after 19 months of preventive and illegal detention. His lawyer, Li Fangping, reported that police extorted a false confession from the religious after four days of continuous interrogation and threats against his family. The agents, added the lawyer, "tortured him for months and no one was allowed to visit him." In the end, Phurbu was sentenced to eight and a half years' imprisonment.  

Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche is a tulku, a "living Buddha", and master of the Tehor monastery in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. In addition, he was (until his arrest) the head of the female monasteries of Pangri and Ya-Tseg.



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