Authorities in the Tibetan Kham region of China�s Sichuan Province detained four Tibetan nuns for nearly three weeks following their return to the area from India, RFA�s Tibetan service reports.

�The four nuns were detained by Ganzi County Public Security officials for about 20 days after their return from India,� a Tibetan source told RFA. �Those four nuns were taken into custody on Feb. 28, 2004, on suspicion of involvement in political activities.�

Chinese officials are generally suspicious of Tibetans returning from Nepal and India, where large numbers of Tibetan exiles are based. But Tibetan sources say early March is also a sensitive time of year in the region, as Tibetans commemorate a March 10, 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Public Security Bureau couldn�t be reached to comment on the case, and judiciary department and county court officials said they were unaware of it.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet�s religious and political leader, fled Lhasa in 1959 after an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule on March 10 of that year. He leads the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India.

The four nuns fled to India in 1998 and enrolled for religious education at Namdoling Nyima Nunnery in Bylakuppe. �They completed seven years of Buddhist study at the nunnery in South India, but finally they had to go back for urgent family reasons,� the source said.

The four nuns were released on March 20, after their relatives vouched for them by paying a fine of 3,500 yuan (U.S.$422). �The relatives assured the officials that the nuns would not be involved in anything political,� said another source who asked not to be named.

Tibetan refugees routinely brave hazardous mountain journeys and risk imprisonment by Chinese authorities to seek out a traditional Buddhist education free from political restriction and social discrimination.

Those who return�often for family reasons�are treated with extreme suspicion and often sent to Chinese jails. #####


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