US asks China to probe death of Tibetan Lama

 The US has asked China to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of a Tibetan Lama in a Chinese prison.

Washington: The US has asked China to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of a Tibetan Lama in a Chinese prison.

Expressing concern over the death of Tibetan Lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, who died in prison 13 years into serving a sentence, the US said it hopes that "Chinese authorities will investigate and make public the circumstances surrounding his death."

"We are saddened to learn that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan Lama who has been a political prisoner since 2002, has died in prison. We express our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and supporters," said State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said.

The US had consistently urged China to release Rinpoche, most recently out of concern for his health, Kirby said in a statement. Rinpoche was arrested in 2002 for an April 3, 2002, blast in Chengdu city that injured three people.

He was sentenced to death on charges of crimes of terror and incitement of separatism a few months later. His death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2005, and later to 20 years' imprisonment.

"We urge Chinese authorities to return his body to his family or to his monastery so that customary religious rituals can be properly performed," Kirby said.

"I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, the Tibetan monk who died Sunday in Chuandong prison in Chengdu. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and community," said Andrew Bennett, Canada's Ambassador for Religious Freedom, in a separate statement issued in Ottawa.

"Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was widely regarded for his spiritual leadership and his tireless work in providing religious, health and social services to Tibetan nomads," he said.

"This is a time for mourning so that all may mark his death with dignity and respect. I respectfully request that Chinese officials return the body of this revered person to his family and that Buddhist traditions be respected," Bennett said.

Rinpoche was born in 1950 in Sichuan. He stayed in India from 1982 to 1987 to study under the Dalai Lama.

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