Chinese authorities have removed officials from a key monastery in a restive county of China’s Qinghai province whom they suspect of opposing Beijing’s rule, replacing them with monks of their own choosing, according to sources in the region.
The move is believed to be the first high-profile management change by Beijing of a monastery in Tibetan-populated areas in recent years.
The revamp this week at the Nyatso Zilkar monastery in Yulshul (in Chinese, Yushu) prefecture’s Tridu (Chenduo) county has heightened local fears that Zilkar’s new managers will now be acting under exclusive Chinese control, an area resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.
“This action has completely broken the tradition of the [monastery] managing its own discipline and activities,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “With this appointment of a new management committee for Zilkar monastery, the monks are worried about their future.”
Chinese authorities in recent months had increasingly interfered in the work of Nyatso Zilkar, “accusing the management team of the monastery in involvement in separatist activities and pressing for their removal from management positions,” a Tibetan source told RFA last month.
On May 10, the monastery’s managers were called to a meeting in nearby Dzatoe town, a local source told RFA on Wednesday.
“The officials insisted that the current management team must be changed, and the pressure became so intense that the management committee members were replaced on May 11,” he said.
An initial list of 32 candidates, including both Nyatso Zilkar monks and laypeople from nearby villages, was first shortened to 28 and then reduced further to a final list of nine, RFA’s source said, adding that these nine were then chosen without input from the monastery itself.
Taken into custody
When the head of nearby Khangmar village challenged two of those initially named, he was taken into custody for a day and a half and “questioned in detention,” the source said.
“Later, he was released,” he said.
Nyatso Zilkar, where monks in recent years have led protest marches and held prayer gatherings to honor self-immolation protesters, appears to have been principally targeted for new restrictions, but other local monasteries have also come under heightened scrutiny, one source said, identifying them as Shelma, Drubgyu, and Lu.
“We are extremely worried, as this could have an impact on the monasteries’ activities,” he said.
In December 2013, Chinese security forces surrounded monasteries with paramilitary police and detained monks in Driru (Biru) county in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region when county residents defied orders to fly the Chinese flag from their homes, according to Tibetan sources.
Two years before, authorities in Tibet’s Chamdo prefecture had forced the return of monks and nuns to a monastery abandoned following a bomb attack on a government building, warning senior leaders that they could be shot if they fail to heed the order, sources said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to protest Chinese rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.