Chinese authorities have closed three monasteries in Driru in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) after paramilitary police surrounded them for weeks, sources said in the latest clampdown in the restive county where Tibetans have resisted forced displays of loyalty imposed by the Chinese authorities.
The Drongna, Tarmoe, and Rabten monasteries in Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the TAR’s Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture were closed in December, according to the sources.
The closure came as paramilitary police were assigned to enforce political re-education campaigns in the county while screening for dissident monks and restricting activities in the monasteries.
Before Drongna’s closure, police had detained a lead instructor in the monastery, according to the sources.
“On Dec. 26, Chinese authorities sealed all the rooms of the monks [at the monastery], and the monks were forbidden to return,” Driru Samdrub, a Tibetan living in Europe, told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing contacts in the region.
“All religious activities at the monastery were then stopped,” Samdrub said.
For over three months, Driru county has been at the center of a campaign by Tibetans resisting forced displays of loyalty to China and the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The campaign intensified in early October when villagers refused orders to fly the Chinese flag from their homes, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.
In response, Beijing has identified Driru as a “politically unstable” county and has launched an “intense and thorough” political re-education program in which meetings are conducted day and night in area villages and monasteries, sources say.
Following efforts to identify dissident monks, Chinese police on Nov. 19 detained Kalsang Dondrub, Drongna monastery’s head instructor on Tibetan culture, Samdrub said.
“Following Kalsang Dondrub’s detention, the police entered Drongna and ransacked the monastery, including the monks’ rooms,” Samdrub said.
'Interfering with police'
Meanwhile, a court in neighboring Gansu province has ordered a Tibetan monk jailed for six years on a charge of interfering with police efforts to block a self-immolation protest more than a year ago, another source said.
“Gendun Gyatso, a monk of Bora monastery, has been sentenced to six years for ‘homicide,’” an India-based Tibetan rights advocate told RFA.
“He was sentenced on Dec. 11, 2013, by the Sangchu [Xiahe] County People’s Court in the Kanlho [Gannan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, though he has denied the charges made against him,” Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy spokesperson Tsering Gyal said.
On Dec. 2, 2012, Bora monk Sungdu Kyab died after setting himself ablaze to challenge Chinese policies in Tibet, and following his self-immolation authorities came to question Gendun Gyatso and other monks suspected of supporting the protest, Gyal said.
“The police questioned Gendun Gyatso, Lobsang Tharpa, Jamyang Soepa, Jamyang Lodroe, and Lobsang Gyatso,” Gyal said.
“The authorities then charged Gendun Gyatso and other monks with ‘homicide’ for preventing the police from extinguishing the flames on Sungdu Kyab’s burning body,” he said.
Released in poor health
In a separate development, a Tibetan student accused of sending information on Tibetan protests to “outside sources” has been released in poor health before completing his full sentence, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA, citing local sources.
Guru, age 25 and a resident of Qinghai province’s Tsekhog (Zeku) county, was briefly detained in early December 2012 and was released after police confiscated his cell phone, Dolma Kyab said.
“Then, on Dec. 24, he was detained again for sending information and photos to outside sources, and was sentenced to a jail term of one year and four months.”
Guru was released without explanation on Dec. 24, 2013, “but his health condition is not good,” Kyab said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the area in 2008.
A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.