Tibetan Monks Trained in India Banned From Teaching in Lithang

Chinese authorities fear the spread of 'separatist' sentiment inspired by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Lithang monastery is shown in an undated photo.

Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in southwest China’s Sichuan province have banned monks educated in monasteries in India from giving teachings in their area, fearing they may spread separatist sentiment, Tibetan sources said.

The move, enacted recently in Lithang county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, targets senior religious teachers called Geshes believed to have been in contact with exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

At least two have already been expelled from the Lithang monastery, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in Lithang.

“The two Geshes, Lobsang Dondrub and Lobsang Choepak, were both educated at Sera monastery in India and graduated with Lharampa degrees,” the most senior rank for Geshes, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Several other Geshes who returned to Tibet after being educated at Sera are facing a similar situation, and Chinese authorities are not even allowing them to join the monastery at Lithang,” he said.

Chinese authorities imposed an almost total communications clampdown on Lithang in March following religious teachings given by the Dalai Lama in India earlier in the year, RFA’s source said.

“Tibetan pilgrims who went to Bodhgaya for the Dalai Lama’s teachings were later summoned by the Chinese authorities to undergo political reeducation, and in some places the returning pilgrims were beaten by police,” he said.

“Others were detained for as long as 15 days. The Chinese were very repressive in dealing with them,” he said.

New level of repression

Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan living in Nepal said that Lithang’s new ban on teaching by India-trained monks points to a heightened level of repression in the county.

“Usually it is a little more lenient in Lithang in terms of possessing photos of the Dalai Lama or expressing devotion to him, but now the situation has changed, and it has become very restrictive,” the source said, also citing contacts in the region.

“Now, some local officials have become very hawkish in restricting religious activities,” he said.

The Dalai Lama, who escaped into exile in India almost ten years after Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950, is reviled by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist who seeks to split the formerly self-governing region from Beijing’s rule.

In what he calls a Middle Way approach, though, the Dalai Lama says that he seeks only a meaningful autonomy for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.

Reported by Dawa Dolma and Kalden Lodoe for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.