SHANGHAI -- Tibetan Buddhist teacher Jigme Phuntsok, the founder of an influential religious academy whose success prompted a crackdown by communist Chinese authorities, died Wednesday. He was 70.
He died in a hospital in the western city of Chengdu after undergoing heart surgery there earlier this month, the Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet said in a news release. He had been in poor health for years, suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, it said.
Since 2001, Chinese authorities had restricted Mr. Phuntsok's movements to the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in a Tibetan area of western China, allowing him to travel only for medical checks, the Campaign for Tibet said.
Mr. Phuntsok, who held the title of khenpo, or great scholar, was born into a family of nomadic herders in 1933, nearly two decades before Chinese communist troops occupied the Tibetan region.
China claimed it was reasserting authority over its own territory, but many Tibetans say their homeland was an independent country.
Ordained a monk in 1955, he traveled widely and established a number of meditation retreats for Buddhist monks and laymen.
In 1980, he established the Larung Gar near the Tibetan town of Serthar with 100 followers, watching it grow over the next two decades to include more than 8,000 Chinese and Tibetan scholars.
Hundreds of scholars who graduated with degrees took up teaching positions in monasteries in China, Tibet, and overseas.