Below is the full text of TCHRD’s February 20 press statement:
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
20 February 2002
Chadrel Rinpoche’s Release: Another Token Gesture
TCHRD has received reliable information that Chadrel Rinpoche, the 62-year-old, former abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and Head of the Search Committee of the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, has been released from Chuandong No. 3 Prison. However, he continues to be held under house arrest in Shigatse. No additional information on his exact whereabouts in Shigatse or his state of health, are available at this moment.
Chadrel Rinpoche was supposed to have been released in May 2001 following a six-year prison term on charges of “plotting to split the country”, and “leaking state secrets”. Since May 1995, details regarding his prison term have been shrouded with inconsistent official statements.
On 14 May 1995, the Dalai Lama announced the then six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. On 17 May 1995, Chadrel Rinpoche disappeared.
Three months after his disappearance, a spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry that he was being detained but stated that he was “ill and in hospital”. The first official admission of Chadrel Rinpoche’s detention was not until May 1997, when Xinhua, the government news agency, reported that on 21 April 1997, the Shigatse Intermediate People’s Court had sentenced Chadrel Rinpoche to six years’ imprisonment commencing on 5 May 1997. This fails to uphold China’s Revised Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that the detention period, starting from the day of arrest, is counted in the term of prison sentence. In Chadrel Rinpoche’s case, it was blatantly violated. However, to confuse matters further, in February 2001, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office was informed that Chadrel Rinpoche’s trial took place in 1996. The date he should have been released is May 2001.
“This release is yet another token gesture by the Chinese government that strangely coincides with the visit of President Bush. The fact remains that Chadrel Rinpoche continues to be placed under house arrest which is an extended form of detention and that raises serious concern,” said Youdon Aukatsang, the Senior Programme Officer of the Centre.
Prior to his detention, Chadrel Rinpoche held the posts of the director of the Civil Administration Society and Chairman of the Democratic Management Committee of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. Rinpoche was the member of national Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Vice-chairman of the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) CPPCC.
By May 1996, Chadrel Rinpoche had been dismissed from all official posts because he had “gone against the basic principles and lost the political stand of a patriot”. On 24 May 1996, Radio Lhasa announced that “in doing this, we have purged the CPPCC of bad elements and have made it clean”.
Around September 1997, initial reports filtered out of Tibet on Chadrel Rinpoche’s detention places. Previously detained in Trochu County (Ch: Heishui), Chadrel Rinpoche was later imprisoned in Chuandong No. 3 Prison, Tazhu County, Sichuan Province, which held highly sensitive political dissidents. Chadrel Rinpoche was reportedly kept in the top-secret compound, referred to as a “prison within the prison” sometime in late April or early May after the sentencing.