BEIJING • A Tibetan monk who was widely known as one of China's most prominent political prisoners has died in jail.
The United States, the European Union and international rights groups had called for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 65, who was serving a 20-year sentence on charges of "crimes of terror and incitement of separatism".
He died on Sunday in Chuandong prison in the south-western city of Chengdu, his cousin Geshe Nyima said from India.
The Tibetan government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration, also confirmed his death.
"The fact that he was not even allowed medical parole and the last wish of followers to see him reflects the continuing hardline policies of the Chinese government," said Mr Lobsang Sangay, who heads the India-based administration. "Such mistreatment will only generate more resentment among Tibetans."
The US State Department said it was saddened to learn that Tenzin Delek had died. "We hope Chinese authorities will investigate and make public the circumstances surrounding his death," it said.
The Free Tibet rights group said security forces had been deployed in Tenzin Delek's home county in China's Sichuan province, where thousands of Tibetans had gathered outside a government office near his monastery. The cause of Tenzin Delek's death was not clear, his cousin said, but rights groups said he had been suffering from a heart condition.
Tenzin Delek was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in 2002, according to Students for a Free Tibet, a rights group that campaigned for his release. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and reduced to a term of 20 years.
Tenzin Delek was also a supporter of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.