"He was briefly hospitalized in Chabcha County with serious illness two weeks ago. However, the hospital officials sent him back to his hometown and told his family that there was no hope of his recovery," Yeshe Tenzin, a Tibetan living in India told TPI Tuesday, citing local sources.
He said that Phuntsok's death was caused by a serious illness as a result of severe torture during his imprisonment in 1960s. He passed away at approximately 1 a.m. on Monday, March 21, 2016.
Chinese authorities arrested him in August 1998. He was 68 year-old at the time of his arrest. Phuntsok was born into a nomadic family in 1931, in Gyaye village, Rigmon Township, Ghongo County, Amdo Tsolho, North-eastern Tibet (Ch: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.)
At a young age he joined Dibser Monastery where he studied Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan language, and mathematics. Phuntsok was detained during the 1949 Chinese invasion and subsequently during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. He suffered severe physical torture including "hard-reform-through-labour". After the Cultural Revolution, when the political climate was relatively more tolerant, he was released.
Upon his release, Phuntsok initiated some constructive work for the improvement of the Tibetan people. He described the problems and difficulties faced by the Tibetan people in his area to former Communist Party Secretary, Hu Yaobang during the Secretary's visit in June 1980.
Gyaye village is situated closed to Tsongon-po (Lake Kokonor), and the surrounding area has rich green pasture and fertile land. Most of this land was reportedly occupied by the Northwest Landrou military battalion, which has resulted in a scarcity of agricultural land for the local nomads.
After Phuntsok learned about the deteriorating situation, he and a group of nomads approached the officials of the Landrou military battalion to present a case for the return of the land. His efforts resulted in the return of half of their lost land, and an expansion of water and electricity facilities.
Due to the difficulties local children faced in gaining education, Phuntsok sought permission from the relevant authorities to set up a school. He finally obtained it and built a permanent lower school in the area. Most of the school's funds are received from private donationsand German aid. Phuntsok looked after the overall administration of the school with its six permanent staff members.
The school has over 60 students who are taught Chinese, Tibetan, English, and math. There is one German man who teaches English in the school. This school is the first of its kind to have English as one of the subjects. The students who attend this school are from the area's poorest families and lack Tibetan language education.
For all of these reasons, local people in the area greatly revere Phuntsok and have high praise for his contribution to the community. They elected him as their popular representative. He was also appointed by the Chinese authorities as the Gong-hai County's political consultative member of Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province.
In March 1992, Phuntsok visited India on a pilgrimage with valid Chinese travel documents. Upon his return from India in June 1992, he was interrogated several times. He remained under strict surveillance from the intelligence wing of the Public Security Bureau. In August 1998, his house was raided, searched and some booklets containing speeches by His Holiness the Dalai Lama were confiscated. Phuntsok was then arrested and taken away in a truck by Chinese authorities.
According to sources inside Tibet, Phuntsok was reportedly detained in a Qinghai prison, but his exact location was not known. After his arrest, some of the nomads from his area tried to trace him but to no avail. When they inquired about Phuntsok the authorities threatened them by saying they could also be imprisoned if they persisted. In his absence, a number of his projects such as the school he set up, has faced deteriorating conditions.