WASHINGTON—Chinese authorities in Tibet have expelled the disciplinarian at a key monastery and detained one of its monks as part of what sources there describe as a broad crackdown on the Dalai Lama’s supporters, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.
Public security officials near the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) capital, Lhasa, interrupted a prayer session at the well-known Sera monastery, according to sources who spoke to RFA’s Tibetan service on condition of anonymity.
“They snatched a ‘request for prayer’ letter from the monastic disciplinarian and fired him… right at the prayer session, and they ordered him under surveillance for one year,” one source said.
Most monks suspect he was secretly arrested and taken away… for interrogation. It was suspected that monks who were admitted with cell phones into the monastery as spies were responsible,
Tsering Dhondup, 30 and a native of Phenpo Lhundup county, disappeared from the monastery immediately afterward, several sources said. Tsering Dhondup is said to have been held in Gutsa prison, in northern Lhasa, since July. The incident occurred in July but was reported only this week, after several witnesses were able to flee the TAR.
Relatives who visited Gutsa prison have been permitted to leave clothing and food for Tsering Dhondup but prevented from visiting with him, the sources said. No further details about his case were immediately available.
“Most monks suspect he was secretly arrested and taken away… for interrogation. It was suspected that monks who were admitted with cell phones into the monastery as spies were responsible,” one source said.
Tsering Dhondup’s alleged offenses include writing a “request for prayer” mentioning the Tibetan exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, and possessing and distributing documents critical of China’s rule over traditionally Tibetan areas and supportive of Tibetan independence.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, a request for prayer is normally drafted and read by a monastic disciplinarian who maintains order. Devotees make offerings and name important lamas, including the Dalai Lama, either to seek blessings or wish the lamas long life. They are normally read at the tea break during a prayer session.
The disciplinarian who read the request for prayer aloud, Changchup Gyaltsen, was expelled from Sera monastery, one source said.
The patriotic re-education campaign is in full swing,
Other sources, including Chinese authorities, have previously reported a renewed Chinese campaign to blacklist key religious figures close to the Dalai Lama and to “re-educate” Buddhist monks, with the aim of solidifying loyalty to the Chinese state.
The campaign began Oct. 26 in Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture and focused heavily on the banning of the prominent Oser Lama from returning to his homeland from India.
Oser, who now lives in southern India, is head of a key Kham monastery of the same name that forms part of the Dalai Lama’s political and religious heartland. He also supervises 22 smaller monasteries in Chamdo prefecture.
“The patriotic re-education campaign is in full swing,” one source inside China told RFA’s Tibetan service. “We are divided into small committees of 20 monks. Sometimes we are ordered to fill out forms, and sometimes they give [us] questionnaires, and we have to fill in the blanks. We have to study six books on patriotic re-education…”
According to the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), the six books are titled Handbook on Crushing the Separatists, Handbook of Contemporary Policies, Handbook of Policies on Religion, Handbook on Law, Handbook on Ethics for the Masses, and Handbook of History of Tibet.
“This re-education is conducted from monastery to monastery. The team who conducts re-education program visits each monastery every day during working hours,” the source said. The Dalai Lama fled Lhasa in 1959 after an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule. He leads the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India. Pictures, writings, and video of the Dalai Lama, who is revered by Tibetans, are banned in Tibet, and those found in possession of them typically receive prison sentences.
The Dalai Lama has accused the Chinese authorities of carrying out “cultural genocide” in the Himalayan region, and many Tibetans complain of ethnic discrimination following the mass migration of Han Chinese to the region amid growing economic development.
In its annual International Report on Religious Freedom, published this month, the U.S. State Department described the level of religious repression in Tibet as “high.”
“Buddhist leaders such as Gendun Choekyi Nyima and Tenzin Deleg remained in detention or prison, and the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism such as the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Lama remained in exile,” the report said. “Dozens of monks and nuns continued to serve prison terms for their resistance to ‘patriotic education.’”
Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service, edited and translated into English by Karma Dorjee. Service director: Jigme Ngapo. Produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.