Fears of New Crackdown on Monks

Missing Tibetan monks are taken for 'political reeducation.'
2013-01-30
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Monks pray in a temple in Tibet's capital Lhasa, Dec. 16, 2011.
Bilderberg

Fourteen senior Tibetan monks have been detained and sent for “political reeducation” to a monastery in Tibet’s Nagchu prefecture, sources said, amid fears of a new crackdown on Tibetan religious leaders.

They were summoned by Chinese officials for a “meeting” on Jan. 14, and were taken into custody after leaving their monasteries, with their whereabouts at first unknown.

The monks—who come from the Sera, Drepung, and Ganden monasteries and the Jokhang Temple in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) capital Lhasa—are being held in Nagchu’s Penkar monastery, a Swiss-based Tibetan named Sonam told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday, citing sources with contacts in Tibet.

“The Chinese authorities called the monk leaders of the monasteries to attend a special meeting, and when they left their respective monasteries they were detained and taken away,” he said, adding, “The monks of the three monasteries and the Tsuklakhang [Jokhang] are very worried.”

“They fear this may be a repetition of the crackdown on the monk leaders [of the Lhasa-area protests] of 2008, and they are concerned about the possible intentions of the Chinese authorities.”

Daily religious activities in the Lhasa-area monasteries have been “adversely affected,” Sonam said.

Sonam identified the detained monks as Khenpo [Abbot] Jampel Lhaksam, chant leader Ngawang, and teachers Ngawang Donden, Ngawang Palsang, and Ngawang Samten from Drepung.

Also detained were Sera monastery’s disciplinarian Migmar, chant leader Samten, and teachers Ngawang Lodro and Tashi Gyaltsen, together with Ganden monastery’s Kalden and Lobsang Ngodrub, and the Jokhang Temple’s Tseten Dorje, Lundrub Yarphel, and Ngawang Lophel, Sonam said.

Increasing interference

In a report last year, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) noted increasing “official interference in monastic life and religious practice in Tibetan areas” during 2011.

“Patriotic education campaigns … were carried out with renewed intensity and frequency at monasteries and nunneries across the Tibetan Plateau,” the report said.

Focuses of the campaigns included education in Chinese law, denunciations of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and the study of materials praising the leadership of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, USCIRF said.

News of the detained monks' whereabouts came as Beijing appointed a new governor for Tibet who experts say is a hard-liner who will have little inclination or influence to moderate Beijing’s tough policies in the restive region.

Ethnic Tibetan Losang Gyaltsen, 55, was elected at the end of the annual meeting of the regional legislature of the TAR and replaces outgoing governor Padma Choling.

The largely figurehead post is seen as subordinate to the more powerful regional secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, a position traditionally held by Han Chinese.

Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.