Xinhua: Tenzin Deleg May Receive Commutation When Reprieve of Death Sentence Expires on January 26

January 26, 2006

Xinhua reported on December 30, 2004, that an official of the Sichuan Province High People’s Court said that the two-year reprieve of Tenzin Deleg’s death sentence will end on January 26, 2005. According to the report, the court sentenced the monk to death in 2003 for “financing and supporting a series of terrorist bombings and secession activities,” but granted a reprieve. In such circumstances, Chinese law requires that the death sentence be commuted to life imprisonment if a convicted person does not violate the law again during the reprieve. The warden of the prison where Tenzin Deleg is imprisoned has said that he has not committed any additional crimes and has abided by prison regulations. The report disclosed that Tenzin Deleg suffered from coronary heart disease and high blood pressure before he was detained, and that he has been receiving medication and quarterly checkups while in prison.

CECC Comment
The official statements that Xinhua reported are consistent with remarks that Chinese officials have made to foreign governments during the past year. The Xinhua report does not mention that Tenzin Deleg’s sentence could be commuted to a fixed-term sentence of 15-20 years instead of life imprisonment if officials determine that he performed “meritorious service” during the period of reprieve. Some Western experts have expressed the private hope that Chinese officials would commute the sentence to a fixed-term in the lower end of that range.

The disclosure that government doctors are treating Tenzin Deleg for heart disease and high blood pressure could signal a potential early release on medical parole. China’s prison regulations require that a prisoner must serve one-third of a sentence before becoming eligible for medical parole. If Tenzin Deleg receives a fixed-term of imprisonment, his sentence would be counted from the day that the suspension of execution expires.

For more information on the Tenzin Deleg case, see the Commission’s Annual Reports for 2003 and 2004.