Last updated on: July 15, 2015 5:48 PM
WASHINGTON—Members of the U.S. Congress have expressed outrage over the death of a prominent Tibetan dissident in a Chinese prison, and urged Beijing to stop abusive policies in Tibet.
Lawmakers observed a moment of silence for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche as they started a hearing Tuesday.
Congressman James McGovern (D-MA) who chaired the hearing said he had asked the State Department to press the Chinese government to grant Tenzin Delek medical parole back in April. “Yet here we are, with another Tibetan leader dead,” he said.
Hollywood movie actor Richard Gere, a longstanding vocal advocate on Tibetan freedom, said Tenzin Delek’s death is a “stark reminder of who we are dealing with here.”
WATCH: Actor Richard Gere testifies at Congressional hearing, later talks to VOA
Testifying before the Congressional hearing, Gere said what the Chinese government was afraid of is the power base Tenzin Delek was building.
“He had tens of thousands of students, Tibetan and Chinese, and I think basically that was the problem,” Gere said.
Tenzin Delek’s family was informed by the local authorities of his death on Sunday, according to the Students for a Free Tibet, a New York based human rights group. He was 13 years into a prison sentence his supporters say was politically motivated.
The U.S. State Department, which had repeatedly called for Tenzin Delek’s release, on Monday urged Beijing to “investigate and make public the circumstances surrounding his death.”