Chinese authorities have built a large police station and detention center near a Buddhist monastery in a Tibetan-populated area of Sichuan in an apparent bid to intimidate monks in the religious institution, according to sources.
They pushed ahead with the project despite efforts by monastic leaders over the last few years to block work on it, sources say.
Monks wishing to leave the centuries-old Muge monastery in the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Zungchu (Songpan) county now have to seek approval from the police station for all their activities and personal travel, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
The 72-room police facility was first planned in 2008 after protests against Chinese rule swept across Tibetan regions of China, RFA's source said.
“Authorities had been planning construction since 2008, but members of the [monastery’s] management committee and senior monks were able to halt work on the project at that time,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Now, construction is completed,” he said, adding, “Judging by the structure’s exterior design, the building also contains a prison section.”
Police control activities
“The monks of Muge monastery have to report to the police station, which is about half a kilometer away, to seek permission for all of their activities, including personal travel,” he said.
“At present, about 20 police officers are stationed there,” he said.
Muge monastery was established in the early fourteenth century by a disciple of Tsongkapa, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism’s majority Geluk tradition, and now houses about 300 monks, RFA’s source said.
Though monastery leaders were able to delay work on the police station when it was first proposed, Chinese authorities in 2013 bought land from a local Tibetan named Kyangme Nyima and began construction without the monastery’s consent, he said.
“The station may also be used as a residence for government workers sent to monitor the monks’ activities and give classes in Chinese law,” he added.
County closely watched
Zungchu county has been closely monitored by local authorities wary of any signs of impending protests against Chinese rule.
Earlier this year, officials blocked a move to hold a traditional Tibetan language competition in Zungchu, citing concerns over the “political implications” of the event, sources said.
The competition, which called for participants to speak “pure” Tibetan unmixed with Chinese, was scheduled for Feb. 21 in conjunction with International Mother Language Day, and was to have been held in Muge Norwa town, one area resident told RFA.
“The relevant Chinese department called [event organizers] and ordered them to cancel the competition," the source said, adding, “They said that the Tibetan language contains words that can be used to express opposition to Chinese rule.”
And last year, the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported that Chinese authorities had seized large parcels of nomadic farmland in Zungchu’s Muge area to make way for the construction of hydropower projects.
“No information is available on official compensation given to the aggrieved families,” TCHRD said in its July 2013 report.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 133 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and for the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.