KATHMANDU, April 27, 2004 — ; Chinese authorities expelled a prominent Tibetan monk at a major monastery near the capital, Lhasa, from his post as lead chanter after he said prayers for the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, RFA's Tibetan service reports.
"The problem started when the monks of Sera Monastery started saying a prayer in praise of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and a prayer for his long life," a Tibetan source said. "Someone informed the Chinese supervision committee in the monastery."
"In October 2002, Khenpo Lobsang Chodak, the lead chanter of Sera Monastery, was expelled from the monastery," the Tibetan said. The source, who asked not to be identified further, said Khenpo Lobsang Chodak, aged around 40, was sent back to his hometown.
His disciple Tulku Thokme, now 24, left on his own in December 2003 and remains in retreat in Lokha Prefecture, in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).
Lobsang Chodak was from Amdo County in Nagchu Prefecture while Thokme Rinpoche was from Yakha Choling under Zangri County in Lokha Prefecture. "We heard that they are being watched and their movements restricted," another source said.
A member of the Sera Monastery Democratic Management Committee, an oversight team appointed by the government, declined to speak on the record with RFA's Tibetan service.
The first Tibetan source said the Chinese authorities had begun in 1990 to set up special police units in each major Tibetan monastery to watch out for any political activities and carry out "patriotic education."
"Then in 1996, they formed a supervision committee of five members in each major monastery who control all of the monasteries' activities. Even a special prayer where devotees make offerings must be approved by this committee."
Each supervision committee made frequent inspection tours within the monastery to which it was assigned, watching for suspicious activities, he said.
Photographs of the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, are banned in Tibet, as are any devotional activities related to him.
The source said the supervision committees had particularly cracked down on monks who listened to foreign radio broadcasts, such as RFA's Tibetan service.
"They impose many restrictions on the monks and the banning of listening to radio broadcasts from United States is very stringent. Any one found listening would be punished, and their equipment confiscated," the source said.
Sera, a major monastery which the Chinese government uses as a tourist showcase for its sensitive cultural policy in Tibet, had been packed with out-of-town monks who stayed for 3-5 years, to disguise the fall in numbers among the regular Sera monks, he said.
Sources said the practise had begun in around 1996, when criticism of falling numbers in Tibetan monasteries had reached its peak.
"They made it very easy for monks from outside Tibet to stay temporarily but never allowed the number of regular monks to increase," he said.
Sera, which traces its history back to the 15th century, is one of the main monasteries in the Tibetan Buddhist path most closely associated with the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama has accused Beijing of "cultural genocide" in Tibet.
In its most recent annual report on human rights around the world, the U.S. State Department noted the continued presence of so-called Democratic Management Committees (DMCs) inside Tibetan monasteries. These were formed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the supervision committees were created in addition to the DMCs.
"The Government continued to oversee the daily operations of major monasteries" in 2003, the report said. "The Government, which did not contribute to the monasteries' operating funds, retained management control of monasteries through [DMCs] and local religious affairs bureaus. Regulations restricted leadership of many DMCs to "patriotic and devoted" monks and nuns, and specified that the Government must approve all members of the committees. At some monasteries, government officials also sat on the committees."
"In addition, in many places, particularly in the TAR, the Government continued to discourage the proliferation of monasteries, which it contended were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community," it said. "The Government stated that there were no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, and that each monastery's DMC decided independently how many monks the monastery could support. However, many of these committees are government-controlled, and in practice, the Government imposed strict limits on the number of monks in many major monasteries, particularly in the TAR. The Government had the right to disapprove any individual's application to take up religious orders; however, these restrictions were not uniformly enforced."