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Geshe Phende Gyaltsen: The Mysterious Death of a Tibetan Tantric Scholar

The 56-year-old monk was in excellent shape when he was arrested in March 2022. The authorities claim he died of “ill health” on January 22 in jail.

By Lopsang Gurung

February 28, 2023

Geshe Phende Gyaltsen. From Twitter.

We all know that jails where Tibetans are kept by the Chinese authorities are insalubrious, but now its seems that a few months there can kill even a healthy man. That is, if you believe the CCP.

Not one month has passed from the death of the celebrated Tantric scholar Geshe Phende Gyaltsen and rumors continue to circulate in both Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, which is part of historical Tibet and where he lived, and in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region—although the authorities have warned that discussing the circumstances of his demise in any way or forum is prohibited.

Born in Litang County, in the southwestern part of Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in 1985 he went to India to study, where he earned a Geshe degree at Sera Mey Monastery. He then returned to Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture where he quietly imparted Tantric teachings to selected disciples, gaining fame as a leading scholar.

In March 2022, he was arrested, allegedly for mediating a dispute between two parties, a traditional activity for monks that is now forbidden to them by the Chinese regime. In fact, however, he had incurred the wrath of the CCP for his efforts at reconstructing and renovating monasteries in Litang County, some of them had been half-destroyed after the 1956 anti-Chinese protests and never rebuilt or restored.

One of the monasteries in need of renovation in Litang County. Credits.

His disciples attest that, when he was arrested, the scholar, who was 56, was in excellent health. However, in July 2022, he was secretly taken to the Litang Hospital, and then to jail again.

The disciples believe that this was because he had been tortured. They were then told that he had died “of ill health” on January 22. But there had been no ill health before he was arrested, they claim.

It is also suspicious that the authorities have stubbornly refused the disciples’ requests to put his body on display allowing the devotees to pay their last respects. Not even his relatives have been allowed to see the body and perform the traditional funeral rites.


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