Owing to heavy security around the hospital and official restrictions in Chamdo, the news of his death came out in the open only yesterday. Reports also indicate that Phuntsok's wife Dolma who went missing after the self-immolation, has been arrested by Chinese officials.
News of Tenzin Phuntsok's death has come about exactly 6 days after the Chinese state media, ‘China Daily' reported that the former monk was in a stable condition. His body is yet to be handed over to his family.
"This morning, when contacted, we came to know that the family has not yet gained possession over Tenzin Phuntsok's body to conduct the final rituals," said Ven. Monlam Tharchin, a member of the Tibetan Parliament in exile.
Accusing China of drumming up fake stories concerning the causes of Tenzin Phuntsok's self-immolation, Tharchin said, "Even in his final moments the deceased's family members were barred from visiting him in the hospital."
"Chinese officials are faking stories in the media by saying Tenzin Phuntsok committed suicide for individual interest but the fact is that he burned himself calling for freedom in Tibet," he added in anguish.
"Those who witnessed the self immolation clearly heard him shout freedom slogans while the fire consumed his body," he concluded.
Tenzin Phuntsok is survived by his wife and three children.
THE STORY IN BRIEF
On December 1, Tenzin Phuntsok, a former monk at Karma Monastery located in Chamdo, Tibet doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire protesting China's continued occupation of Tibet.
Eyewitnesses later confirmed that Tenzin Phuntsok was in a very serious condition with one of his arms nearly torn apart.
The entire Chamdho region, especially Karma monastery has been facing increased repression after unconfirmed reports of a bomb blast at a Chinese government building in Chamdho on October 26 emerged.
Although no casualties were reported following the blast, Karma monastery was locked down and strict restrictions were placed on its monks.
Reports say that 70 monks of Karma monastery were detained, while over 40 monks escaped from the monastery into the hills. The current whereabouts of the detained monks remain unknown.
Before setting himself on fire, Tenzin Phuntsok had distributed leaflets expressing his solidarity with the detained monks and criticizing Chinese rule. "When monks and nuns suffer so much under detention with beatings and excruciating interrogations, I would prefer to die than remain alive," read one leaflet.
"How can we trust this totalitarian regime who forbids us from practicing our Buddhism? Mere thinking about those monks is futile. We should rise up."
MEANWHILE IN EASTERN TIBET
The situation in eastern Tibet still remains tense. In another case of Chinese repression, Thapkay Gyatso, a Tibetan monk from Labrang monastery, serving 15 years sentence in a Chinese prison in Gansu Province, is feared to be in critical condition due to years of torture.
According to a report of India based Tibetan human rights group (TCHRD), Thapkay's friend who visited him in July this year reported that the former is imprisoned in a place called Dianxin, 100 kilometers away from Lanzhou city in Gansu Province. The friend also stated that Thapkey is half-paralyzed and is suffering from weak eyesight.
Thapkay was arrested in the evening of 18 March 2008 by the People's Armed Police and Public Security Bureau police from Labrang Monastery.
For around a year, Thapkay went 'missing' without any whereabouts until his hearing. On 19 May 2009, Kanlho Prefecture People's Intermediate Court charged him for 'causing harm to national security' and sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment.