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Free the Panchen Lama and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Updated on January 20, 2015

Vigil for the Immediate Release of the Panchen Lama

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Decade as a Prisoner of Conscience

It has been several years since we started advocating for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche from prison, held by the government of the People's Republic of China. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche [CH: 阿安扎西 Pinyin: A'an Zhaxi] is a much respected community leader. He is charged with inciting “splittism," which essentially means working to preserve Tibetan identity and culture.

On 2 December 2002, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was sentenced to death with a two year suspension. Lobsang Dhondup, a distant cousin of his, was sentenced to immediate death and executed shortly afterward. After intense international pressure, Tenzin Delek’s sentence was commuted to a life sentence on January 26th, 2005.

He is serving a life sentence with has been reduced to a term of 20 years. The expected release date not known; not before 2022. He is currently at Chuandong Prison, Sichuan Province. He has been beaten and tortured, is in ill health and in need of medical assistance. In April 2012 Tenzin Delek Rinpoche will have been in detention for ten years. He is currently known to be suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease and problems with his legs due to the torture he has endured.

Here is a link to "Free Tibetan Heroes," which describes his plight in greater detail.

The Panchen Lama, Missing for over 16 Years

The issue of the Panchen Lama is even more complex. The Tibetan spiritual community has several figures that are much revered as reincarnated spiritual personifications of the enlightened mind. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is well known throughout the world as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. The holder of the title, Panchen Lama, is also a cherished person in the Tibetan spiritual cosmology. Bear in mind that as considered reincarnated, the new Panchen Lama (and perhaps many, many years from now, the new Dalai Lama) was found as a small child by a committee of monks entrusted to understand the signs that would help to find the new holy person.

According to, the 10th Panchen Lama, a vocal advocate of Tibet cultural and identity passed away mysteriously in 1989. His reincarnation, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, recognized at age 6 in 1995 was taken into custody by the Chinese government along with his family and to date no one knows his whereabouts... "The Chinese government asserted its political motive into the reincarnation search by installing another young boy, Gyaiancain Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama. The replacement was kept in Beijing and recently given a political title in the Chinese government, equivalent to that of a member of parliament or congressmen. He was routinely asked to make propaganda statement for the Chinese government."

I urge everyone with an interest in human rights, to contact your legislators to urge the government of the People's Republic of China, to free the Panchen Lama and his family, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, and all prisoners of conscience (people imprisioned for their beliefs or cultural identity.).


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