Chinese authorities have evicted Buddhist retreatants from two hermitages and ramped up security around a restive county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) where monks and nuns are protesting Chinese state intrusion into monastery affairs, according to Tibetan sources.
More than 20 retreatants were expelled from two traditional hermitage sites outside the Tibetan capital Lhasa on Feb. 12, according to information received by RFA and confirmed by Kalsang Gyaltsen, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile based in India’s Dharamsala hill town.
The retreat structures at Lhalung and Gonpasar were then “demolished,” according to a microblog message sent from Tibet this week.
The move came as another source reported a buildup of security forces in Tibet’s Driru county, the scene of recent monastery closures as monks and nuns abandoned their establishments to protest Chinese state intrusion into monastery affairs.
“Five truckloads of Chinese troops have arrived in Driru,” a Tibetan monk living in India said, citing a phone conversation with his mother, who lives in the region.
“Three are stationed at Driru monastery, and two were sent to Pekar monastery,” also in Driru, he said.
His mother had gone to visit Driru monastery and Choeling monastery, both of which were closed, he said.
“On the way, Chinese troops stopped her and questioned her about the number of family members living in her home. They also wrote down the number of her cell phone,” he said.
Speaking in an interview, Columbia University Tibet expert Robbie Barnett pointed to a recent trend of “massive state intrusion” into Tibetan religious affairs, adding that monasteries in the region must now display pictures of Chinese leaders and fly the Chinese flag.
“These kinds of incursions by the authorities—either by the security forces or by forcing officials and ‘work teams’ on the monks—are getting to the point where we will see monks just walking away from these places,” Barnett said.
In the Tibetan capital itself, “the situation is very urgent,” said a caller from Tibet, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Lhasa city and nearby areas are under the strict control of the Chinese. Everybody is like a prisoner here,” he said. “City residents cannot go out freely to buy food or daily supplies. Everyone has to show their residency cards.”
'A dangerous time'
Kate Saunders, spokesperson for the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, said the Lhasa area is now experiencing an “intense crackdown, both on the religious and the secular community.”
“Over the past week, there have been raids in the Barkhor area of Lhasa … There is an increasing fear of seizure of personal belonging with any links to [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama, such as photographs,” Saunders said.
“This is a dangerous time, and there is an urgent need for space for more moderate and reasonable approaches by the authorities.”
Outside the TAR, protests are continuing against Beijing’s rule in Tibetan-populated areas in Chinese provinces.
A Tibetan monk burned himself to death on Friday to protest Chinese security intrusions at his monastery in western Qinghai province, sources said.
It was the 22nd confirmed self-immolation by Tibetans protesting Chinese policies and rule in Tibetan regions since a wave of the fiery protests began in February 2009.
Three other self-immolations were reported in early February in a remote region of Sichuan province, but have never been confirmed due to communication problems stemming from the stepped-up crackdown by Chinese security forces.
Reported by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Karma Dorjee and Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.