April 16, 2002

Contact: Annie Warner (212) 213-5010 x14

Tenzin Choephel x13


--On April 7, 2002, Chinese authorities arrested Venerable Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly-revered Tibetan spiritual teacher, and four of his attendants, after accusing the five men of masterminding recent bomb blasts in Chengdu and Beijing.

"Venerable Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has been involved in bringing spiritual renaissance to Tibet for a number of years. The arrest of such a highly-revered spiritual teacher will only serve to alienate the Tibetan people further," said Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, Chairman of the Cabinet of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

Fifty-year-old Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has established nine monasteries, a home for the elderly, and a school in Eastern Tibet, each of which provides free food, shelter, and schooling for underprivileged Tibetans.

Chinese authorities have reportedly attempted to arrest Tenzin Delek Rinpoche on two previous occasions, accusing him of "hosting the flag of lamaism and religion" and "building monasteries without permission from the government." Sources in Tibet maintain that the most recent charges against Tenzin Delek Rinpoche are fabricated, implying that his arrest is a result of his steadfast loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's arrest comes just weeks after the Chinese Government's very public release of prisoners Ngawang Choephel and Tanak Jigme Sangpo before the world, and in particular, before the United Nations Rights Commission in Geneva. However, the arrest of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche shows that despite such token gestures, the Chinese Government continues to arrest Tibetan religious figures and crack down heavily on religious freedoms throughout Tibet.

The four people arrested with Tenzin Delek Rinpoche are Lama Tamdin Tsering, Lama Tsultrim Dargay, Lama Ashey Dargay, and Dhondup