Chinese authorities have expelled more than 100 Tibetan nuns from a convent in a southwestern Tibetan county near the border with Nepal, sending them back to their family homes and requiring them to wear lay dress, according to Tibetan sources.
The move early this year by officials overseeing Changlo nunnery in Dingri county in the Shigatse (in Chinese, Rikaze) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region was aimed at nuns living at the facility without official permission, a nun who escaped into India this month told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Out of 200 nuns living at Changlo, only 21 had a permit from Chinese authorities allowing them to stay there,” said the nun, a young woman in her late teens, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Beginning on March 4, nuns without residency permits were forced to return for two months to their family homes where they had to wear lay dress, which was a distraction from their religious studies,” the nun said.
Some of the expelled nuns returned to Changlo after the two-month period had expired, said the nun, who escaped from Tibet in November to pursue her studies in India. Details on the residency status of those who were able to return were not immediately available.
Following widespread protests in 2008 across Tibetan regions of China, “Chinese authorities intensified all kinds of restrictions on monasteries in Tibet, forcing them to register resident monks and nuns and not allowing them to build new rooms,” she said.
“Those who are refused permits have often been compelled to return to their homes, and some have even hidden in nearby wooded areas,” she said.
“For many who are still hoping to receive their permits, life is very difficult.”
While residing without permission at Changlo, five to six nuns would frequently crowd into a single room, RFA’s source said.
“Those who had official permits to live at Changlo were given financial support by the Chinese, and also had television sets in their rooms,” she said. “But those without permission to stay couldn’t get this monetary allowance or build rooms of their own.”
After waiting for a long time for a permit of her own “and enduring many hardships,” she decided to escape to India in order to study under teachers in exile, she said.
Two months ago, Chinese authorities expelled 26 unregistered nuns from a nunnery and study center in another Tibetan county that had offered courses in Buddhist philosophy, sources said.
Though authorities had officially approved 140 nuns to reside at Jada nunnery in Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture’s Driru (Biru) county, “other nuns were studying there who had come from other areas,” Ngawang Tharpa, a Tibetan living in India, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“And whenever government officials came to check, those nuns would run away into the hills so that they wouldn’t be detected and expelled,” Tharpa said.
Also in September, Chinese authorities launched a month-long “rectification and cleansing” campaign in Driru, ordering the destruction of recently built religious structures and demanding that younger monks be expelled from their monasteries and sent back to their family homes, sources said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 133 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma and Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.