Tibetan Buddhist monk dies in Chinese police custody News
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Tibetan Buddhist monk dies in Chinese police custody

Prominent Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Phende Gyaltsen died in Chinese prison on January 26, according to Thursday reports from Radio Free Asia. Chinese authorities arrested Geshe Phende in March 2022.

The Chinese Communist Party exercises predominant authority over Tibetan areas. In 2018, the Ministry of Public Security issued a notice declaring a wide range of social activities among Tibetans to be illegal, including local dispute resolution and giving public religious teaching. The notice suggests that such activities secretly encourage support for the exiled Dalai Lama or for Tibetan independence. Phende Gyaltsen was allegedly detained for actively engaging in the renovation of Shedrub Dhargyeling monastery in Lithang. He regularly performed religious teachings and was allegedly involved in mediating a dispute between two parties in the county.

Individuals were not allowed to pay their last respects to Phende Gyaltsen; Chinese authorities reportedly placed tight restrictions in the region, and the body was kept away from the public. Buddhists recognise death as one of the most religiously significant occasion of one’s lifetime. However, it is reported that Phende Gyaltsen’s family was not allowed to perform traditional and sacred rituals and practices on his body.

The cause of death of the religious figure is reported as “unknown ill-health.” Pema Gyal, a researcher at Tibet Watch, said, “Many innocent Tibetans who died in the Chinese prisons died solely because of the harsh physical abuse and mistreatment they go through under the Chinese government from coercing confessions.” In a 2022 report, Human Rights Watch stated that “authorities in Tibetan areas continue to severely restrict freedoms of religion, expression, movement, and assembly.”