Troops Return to Kirti

Chinese security forces are sent to contain a gathering at a restive Tibetan monastery.
2011-11-22
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Tibetan monks from Kirti monastery in exile in India gather before embarking on a protest march to New Delhi calling for an end to the Kirti crisis, April 26, 2011.
Tibetan monks from Kirti monastery in exile in India gather before embarking on a protest march to New Delhi calling for an end to the Kirti crisis, April 26, 2011.
AFP

Chinese authorities in a Tibetan region of southwestern Sichuan province have again dispatched security forces to troubled Kirti monastery, according to exile Tibetan sources.

Kirti, located in Sichuan's Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, has been the scene this year of repeated self-immolation protests against rule by Beijing.

The monastery had held a large prayer meeting at the weekend to mark an important date in the Tibetan Buddhist calendar, said Kanyag Tsering, a monk living at Kirti's sister monastery in India, citing sources in the region.

"Pretty much everyone from the Gelugpa sect attended," Tsering said, in a reference to the religious lineage of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama. "This was a major meeting."

"A lot of security forces were sent, as Kirti was hosting the event," he said. "There were police in every street and alleyway, and the controls were very, very strict."

He said security had been relaxed somewhat since the weekend. "The troops have withdrawn," Tsering added.

Kalsang, a Tibetan living in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, also citing sources in the Ngaba region, said that between 250 and 300 Chinese officials remain stationed inside Kirti following tensions which escalated in the wake of a series of self-immolation protests, starting in March.

"They don't force the monks to do anything, but they watch everything they do, and supervise all the activities of the monastery," Kalsang said.

'Patriotic re-education'

Hundreds of Kirti monks were forcibly removed from the monastery and sent for "patriotic re-education."

Tibetans say such campaigns require monks to renounce the Dalai Lama and pledge allegiance to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"None of the Kirti monks really knows who these officials are, where they came from, or which government department they are from," Kalsang said.

An official who answered the phone at the Ngaba township government offices, which oversees Kirti monastery, declined to comment.

"I have nothing to say about this," the official said, before hanging up.

The self-immolation of a Kirti monk in March sparked a wave of burning protests, with the death of a Tibetan nun on Nov. 3 the most recent.

Lockdown in capital

According to Internet postings from residents of the the Tibetan capital, Lhasa,  security forces were holding the city under lockdown in recent days, preventing any trains or long-distance buses from arriving or leaving.

Jampel Monlam, assistant director of the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), said the tight security was linked to a regional Party meeting.

"There were a lot of police and army patrols and checks throughout Lhasa at this time," he said. "They arrived in the [city] on Nov. 12."

"Lhasa police and armed police have been carrying out round-the-clock checks and patrols," Jampel Monlam said. "This is to ensure security during the meeting."

He said figures compiled by TCHRD showed a rise in the number of Tibetans crossing the Himalayas from China and arriving in Dharamsala this year.

"Last year there were 672 refugees, while this year there will be around 700-800," Jampel Monlam said.

Earlier this month, Chinese authorities detained two young monks from Kirti monastery, the scene of at least eight of the 11 self-immolations this year by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule.

House-to-house visits

According to exile Tibetan sources, teams of Chinese officials are now going house-to-house in the communities of the valleys and highlands of the Ngaba region and are demanding that all children under 18 be sent immediately to government schools.

Plainclothes officers are also present in large numbers in Ngaba town and keep a close watch on the town’s central market street, where most of Kirti’s self-immolation protests took place, they say.

The Karmapa, the third highest-ranking Tibetan Buddhist leader, who lives in exile in India, called on Tibetans this month to give up the practice of setting themselves on fire, at the same time acknowledging the “injustice and repression under which they live.”

He endorsed the Dalai Lama’s call to the Chinese leadership to end its “repression” in Tibet.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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