The body of prominent Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche has been cremated in a Chinese prison.
He was serving a life sentence for terrorism charges and inciting separatism.
The cause of his death on Sunday is not known although it is believed he had a heart condition.
More than 30 monks, nuns and family members of Tenzin Delek viewed his body, said Dolkar, his sister, who witnessed the cremation in Dazhou city in south-western Sichuan province on Thursday morning.
However, his family reportedly wanted Tenzin Delek’s body to be released instead so that Buddhist rites could be performed in his hometown.
Dolkar said government officials denied her request that her brother’s body be preserved for 15 days, in keeping with Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
She said her brother’s fingernails and mouth were black and that officials had not told her the cause of his death, adding to her suspicions.
|Photo: High-profile Tibetan monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died
in a Chinese jail. (Supplied: Students for a free Tebit)
The US State Department said this it hoped Chinese authorities would investigate and make public the circumstances surrounding the 65-year-old’s death.
International rights groups, as well as the United States and the European Union, had called for the release of Tenzin Delek, with Britain asking China to grant him medical parole.
On Wednesday, dozens of Tibetans protested outside the prison where Tenzin Delek died, reflecting anger amongst his supporters and family, who believe he was murdered.
Calls to the Dazhou government went unanswered. The Sichuan government’s propaganda department said it was unaware of the case.
An official who picked up the telephone at the provincial police department said she had not heard of the case.
China has ruled Tibet since troops took over the region in 1950, and those controls often extend to ethnic Tibetan areas in other parts of China.
Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.