A sister of a well-respected Tibetan lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who died in a Chinese prison said Wednesday that authorities had refused to turn his remains to the relatives.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, died while serving a life sentence on charges of terrorism and incitement of separatism, which his supporters said were false.
His sister Dolkar said family and friends fear that authorities might cremate the monk’s body without family permission.
”Our only request is to have his body, but the prison has said it should have the custody of the remains,” said Dolkar.
She and more than 100 Tibetans traveled to the prison in Dazhu county in southwestern Sichuan province, which borders the Tibetan region, to demand the return of the lama’s body.
Dolkar said the family request fell on deaf ears and that they were yet to view the monk’s remains or be provided with his death certificate or medical records.
Calls to the prison were unanswered on Wednesday.
Human rights groups have long argued for the monk’s innocence, saying he suffered more than 13 years of unjust imprisonment, torture and abuse in the Chinese prison for advocating for the rights of his fellow Tibetans.
Tenzin Delek was arrested in 2002, in connection with an April 3, 2002, blast in Chengdu city that wounded three people. His death sentence was later commuted to life. He continued to maintain his innocence.
His family members were informed of his death on Sunday, but were not told how he died.
Last year, they had applied for medical parole for him on the grounds that he suffered from a heart condition, high blood pressure, dizzy spells and problems with his legs that had caused him to fall on a number of occasions.
Authorities had never responded to the parole request.
In Washington, members of the House of Representatives also demanded Chinese authorities return the lama’s body to his family members for a funeral. At a hearing on Tibet by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, movie actor Richard Gere, a longstanding advocate for Tibetan freedom, called the monk ”one of the good men of the community” who found commonality between Tibetans and Chinese.