BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese court sentenced two men to death in the 2013 killing of Akong Rinpoche, a well-known religious figure who founded the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West and built an international network of spiritual retreats.
Thubten Kunsal, a Tibetan man who had worked at Akong’s monastery in the United Kingdom as an artist for nine years, fatally stabbed Akong, his nephew and his driver after confronting him at his home in the city of Chengdu over $415,000 in wages he believed he was owed, according to a statement Sunday by the Chengdu People’s Intermediate Court.
Thubten and another man, Ciren Banyue, were given the death penalty while a third man was sentenced to three years’ prison for hiding daggers used in the killings. Thubten and Ciren said they planned to appeal, according to the court statement.
Akong’s monastery Kagyu Samye Ling, which is based in southwest Scotland with branches in Europe and Africa, has denied it owed Thubten pay. It did not immediately have comment on the sentences.
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Born in 1939, Akong was recognized at age 2 by a search party as a lama incarnate and entered the Dolma Lhakhang monastery before fleeing to India as Chinese forces moved in to stamp out the 1959 Tibetan uprising. He moved to Britain several years later, studied at Oxford University and founded his Buddhist center in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, in 1967.
The monk, who became a British citizen, maintained friendly relations with the Chinese government and frequently visited the country to look after charity projects. Akong was on a fundraising trip when he was stabbed.