A court in southwest China has postponed a verdict on a Tibetan “living Buddha” on charges of illegally possessing firearms, his lawyer said yesterday, adding that international attention appeared to have prompted the delay.
Phurbu Tsering, 52, runs two nunneries in Ganzi in Sichuan Province and is one of the most senior religious figures to appear in court since deadly riots swept Tibetan parts of China last year.
A “living Buddha” is a Tibetan monk who is considered to be an exemplary holy figure.
Protests in Lhasa against Chinese rule on March 14 last year led to the deaths of 19 people and sparked waves of protests in Tibetan areas across the plateau, including Sichuan.
Tibetan exiles say more than 200 people died in an ensuing crackdown.
Phurbu, also known as Buramna Rinpoche, was detained on May 18 after police found a gun and ammunition in his home, according to a copy of the bill of indictment obtained by Reuters. He was also accused of tax evasion.
A verdict was expected yesterday, but officials announced a delay and did not set a new date, said Li Fangping, Phurbu’s lawyer.
“They didn’t explain why they’ve delayed,” Li said by telephone. “But the case has attracted attention abroad and I think they may have felt the heat was too much.”
Li said Phurbu faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
A year after the Lhasa riots, a tight web of troops and police throughout Tibetan areas appears to have deterred large-scale unrest.