Xinhua: Tenzin Deleg Death Penalty Commuted to Life Imprisonment

January 26, 2005

CECC Summary
A January 26 Xinhua report said that the Higher People’s Court of Sichuan province has commuted to life imprisonment a death sentence imposed on Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche (A'an Zhaxi), a popular Tibetan religious leader. The original sentence had been subject to a two-year reprieve, which expired January 26. The Court’s announcement came exactly two years after the same court upheld Tenzin Deleg’s conviction on appeal. According to the decision, "The court commuted [the] death penalty on A'an Zhaxi to [a] life term because he did not intentionally violate the relevant law specifications again during the execution period of the past two-year reprieve."

The Ganzi Intermediate People's Court convicted Tenzin Deleg of "conducting terrorist bombings and inciting secession activities" in December 2002. According to Xinhua, the verdict ordering commutation also stated that the judicial authorities had informed Tenzin Deleg of his legal rights and provided him with relevant documents in the Tibetan language. Tenzin Deleg confessed to the charges against him, according to the court, but hired two lawyers to defend him and appealed his conviction. The higher court upheld the verdict in a "second-instance trial" on January 26, 2003. Tenzin Deleg, 55, who the Dalai Lama recognized as a reincarnate lama in the 1980s, is "currently serving his term in a local Sichuan jail, where [he] is fairly and well treated," according to the report. In other reports in late December 2004, Xinhua reported that Tenzin Deleg is being treated for high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, and that he receives a quarterly checkup. Reports by the CECC and HRW provide additional information about the case.

CECC Comment
Tenzin Deleg’s case has been the subject of international concern since it emerged in April 2002. According to reports by NGOs, local Tibetans consider Tenzin Deleg to be an innocent man who became the focus of Chinese resentment and persecution.

Chinese officials accused Tenzin Deleg and Lobsang Dondrub, another Tibetan, of conspiring to set off a series of explosions that began in 1998 and ended in April 2002. Authorities claim that the case involves "state secrets" and tried the men in a closed court in November 2002. Chinese authorities have neither made public any of the evidence against the two Tibetans nor disclosed the manner in which it was obtained. Chinese officials insist that the law and the defendants' rights were fully respected, but none of the proceedings and documents has been open to independent observation or inspection.

Lobsang Dondrub did not appeal his conviction or death sentence. The Sichuan higher court approved his execution on the same day that it rejected Tenzin Deleg's appeal, and security authorities carried out the sentence immediately. Unconfirmed reports alleged that Lobsang Dondrub was tortured into confessing to the charges, but Chinese officials dismissed such allegations, while admitting that he provided testimony that incriminated Tenzin Deleg.

Police detained at least nine other Tibetans in the crackdown following the detentions of Tenzin Deleg and Lobsang Dondrub. Tashi Phuntsog, a monk at the same monastery as Tenzin Deleg, was the last to be released. He was released from the prefectural detention center in Kangding on January 6, after serving less than three years of a seven year sentence, but sources report that imprisonment has left him unable to speak clearly or walk.