The conspicuous absence of a public outcry in Tenzin Delek’s home community after his 2002 arrest was in stark contrast to his earlier support. Government officials attributed the public’s silence to their coming to terms with his alleged deceptions. His supporters spoke of fear and intimidation. Said one supporter:
Wang Lixiong, one of the few outsiders who went to Lithang after Tenzin Delek’s 2002 arrest, found no “masses” willing to risk petitioning on Tenzin Delek’s behalf. In fact, he was warned, “If you’re outside asking about [Tenzin Delek’s] situation, it won’t be long before there are police at your door.”192
For many years local, prefectural, and provincial officials violated the human rights of Tenzin Delek, his supporters, and the communities in which he lived and worked. They refused Tenzin Delek the right to travel freely within China; they limited his right to meet with his supporters; they controlled the messages he was permitted to deliver to his constituents; they severely compromised his freedom of conscience and right to support his beliefs with meaningful religious activities; and they made a mockery of adherence to international rule of law standards.
At no time during the legal proceedings did the Sichuan judiciary and local Kardze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture courts act independently. At no time was evidence—instead of official reiterations of the charges against all the defendants——made public. The trial was not open to the public or observers. There was no presumption of innocence, no independent counsel, no meaningful appeal process. Because both Tenzin Delek and Lobsang Dondrup were held incommunicado, there is no way of knowing whether they had access to meaningful legal counsel at any time during the trial and appeals process. With information obtained under torture still regularly introduced as evidence in China, suspicions that “confessions” were coerced and then entered into evidence remain plausible.
The account of how officials responded to Tenzin Delek’s religious and social activities in the years preceding his arrest appears to exemplify more widespread efforts on the part of the Chinese leadership to undermine religious leadership in all Tibetan areas. Until 1995, no senior Tibetan lamas had been accused of political dissent. In some respects, the Kardze TAP, where monastic influence remained strong during the post-Cultural Revolution period and into the 1990s, was late to experience a crackdown; the events documented here strongly suggest that it is in the midst of one. It would not be surprising in coming months and years if government officials targeted other influential religious leaders in western Sichuan. Monastic leaders who still refuse to renounce the Dalai Lama, refuse to curb efforts to expand their Buddhist communities, and continue to fill social and cultural communal needs, might yet be targeted for “patriotic education.”
Both under its own constitution and laws and as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, China has clear obligations to bring its laws and practices into conformity with international standards. The international community should continue to insist that China do so and hold Chinese leaders publicly and privately accountable for any failures. Chinese officials should begin by freeing Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, as well as Tashi Phuntsog and Taphel. They should receive compensation for their time in detention and any physical or psychological harm they experienced, as should others, now released, who experienced similar problems. Central government authorities should identify and remove officials responsible for the Tenzin Delek affair, and conduct an independent investigation. And whatever one’s views on Tibetan independence—Human Rights Watch takes no position on this issue—restrictions on support for the Dalai Lama and other active lamas like Tenzin Delek must end. Tibetans must be able to worship as they wish and support whom they want. These are basic freedoms that no state is entitled to compromise.
191 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 3, 2003.
192 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.”