Chinese authorities have launched a campaign to tighten restrictions on monastic life in a restive county in Tibet, ordering the destruction of recently built religious structures and demanding that younger monks be expelled from the monasteries and sent back to their family homes, according to sources.
The “rectification and cleansing” campaign in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region was launched on Sept. 20 and will continue through Oct. 20, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Tibetans in Driru, a county considered “politically unstable” by Beijing, have long resisted forced displays of loyalty to Beijing, which has imposed tight restrictions in the area, including a clampdown on communications.
Detailed instructions for Beijing's new campaign are contained in a 30-page document that is being distributed door-to-door by government workers in all the monasteries and villages in Driru,” the RFA source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“All new stupas, mounds of mani stones [stones displaying carved mantras], and shrines built after 2010 have been declared illegal and must be destroyed by a specified deadline,” the source said, adding that the monasteries or villages that originally set the structures up must be the ones to take them down.
“If they do not comply, the government will do it for them,” he said.
“It has also been ordered that retreat facilities built after Nov. 1, 2011, including houses for individual retreatants, must be torn down,” he said.
'Underage' monks expelled
Monks aged 12 and younger may no longer be enrolled in Driru-area monasteries, and those now present must return to their family homes by Oct. 20 or be expelled, with monastic leaders held criminally responsible if any remain beyond that date, the source said.
“Families who refuse to take their children back may be detained for six months, or even sent to jail for terms of from one to three years,” he said.
“If the lamas or khenpos in the monasteries hold back any of the underage monks, they will be punished and expelled themselves.”
Driru is one of three neighboring counties in Tibet’s eastern Nagchu prefecture from which Chinese authorities fear political unrest may spread unchecked to other parts of the region.
About 1,000 Driru-area Tibetans have been detained since authorities launched a crackdown in September 2013 when Beijing began a campaign to force Tibetans to fly the Chinese national flag from their homes, sources say.
The campaign intensified in early October 2013 when villagers refused to fly the flags, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.
“Now, monks and nuns who defy instructions to fly the Chinese flag from their houses or to prominently display photos of Chinese leaders will be expelled from the monastic community,” RFA’s source said.
“They are also forbidden from keeping photos of the Dalai Lama, and if these are found in their possession they will be ‘re-educated’ and deprived of the state benefits provided for monks and nuns by Chinese policy.”
Members of the public found with photos of the exiled spiritual leader must attend a six-month “refresher course” on Chinese law and will be banned for two years from collecting cordyceps sinensis, a valuable fungus harvested and sold for its purported medicinal properties, he added.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.