Chinese security forces have detained six monks at a restive monastery in Tibet following protests calling for Tibetan independence and the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, according to sources.
The protests by monks at the Drakdeb monastery in Markham (in Chinese, Mangkang) county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) were sparked by resentment at “political reeducation” classes imposed by a Beijing-appointed panel running the monastery, said a Tibetan native of the area now living in the U.S.
“The monastery’s democratic management committee was carrying out political reeducation at the monastery, which has over 20 monks, and was making the lives of the monks very difficult,” Markham Drakpa told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in the region.
“Therefore, on Feb. 10, the eve of the Tibetan New Year, the monks protested and all were detained.”
On Feb. 13, Tibetan residents of the area protested the authorities’ actions against the monks, and all but six of the monks were released, Drakpa said, adding, “Right now, security has been tightened across the Markham region.”
Calls seeking comment from the Markham county Public Security Bureau rang unanswered on Tuesday.
Separately, the online Tibet Express confirmed on Tuesday that monks from the Drakdeb monastery in Markham’s Pomba township had “staged a peaceful protest calling for Tibetan independence and for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.”
Following the Feb. 10 protest, six monks were still in Chinese custody, Tibet Express said.
“The Chinese government has deployed a large number of security forces in the area and has blocked all traffic to and from the monastery.”
“Because of the security clampdown and insecure communication lines, the names and other information about the six detained monks has not yet been learned,” Tibet Express said.
Last month, residents in Tibet’s Markham township petitioned authorities to shut down a Chinese-operated slaughterhouse, saying that waste from the facility was polluting local water sources, while in September Chinese security forces in Markham shot dead a Tibetan as they dispersed a crowd protesting Chinese mining operations.
Protests against Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, common in Tibetan-populated regions of China’s western provinces, have increased over the last year.
To date, 102 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests challenging Chinese rule in Tibetan areas.
Beijing has defended its rule of Tibet and says the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders in exile have orchestrated the self-immolations from their base in India.
But Tibetan exile leaders deny involvement in the burnings and have called on Tibetans in Tibetan-populated regions of China to exercise restraint.
Rights groups have condemned Chinese authorities for criminalizing the fiery protests and for cracking down on Tibetans believed to have provided encouragement and support.
Reported by Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.