Chinese officials have expelled four Tibetan monks from a monastery in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) for defying orders to fly the Chinese flag, according to a Tibetan source in exile.
The expulsion comes as Chinese authorities press a campaign of interference in monastic life in Tibet, leading to monks and nuns abandoning their establishments, sources say.
On Feb. 7, Chinese officials from Pashoe county in the TAR’s Chamdo prefecture arrived at the Rawu Shulten monastery in Pashoe, an India-based Tibetan monk named Tenpa said, citing contacts in the region
There, they ordered monks to hoist the Chinese national flag and display photos of Chinese leaders inside the monastery, Tenpa said.
“The monks strongly objected to the government’s order, and as a result of this defiance, four monks were expelled from the monastery.”
Citing sources, Tenpa named two of those expelled as Jampa Dondrub and Jampa Thogme, both from Lhago village in Pashoe county. The names of the other two monks are still unknown, he said.
“Tension has risen at the monastery in the wake of this incident,” Tenpa said, adding that Chinese authorities have already forbidden monks under the age of 18 to remain in monasteries.
“The monasteries hide young monks by locking them up in a room when Chinese officials visit,” he said.
“The Chinese officials have warned that the monastery could be closed if it does not obey the government decree” ordering the display of the flag and photos, Tenpa said.
“The monks are now closely watched by the officials, who are restricting their movements,” he said.
In Driru county, also in the TAR, monks and nuns have abandoned many of their monasteries, citing intolerable interference in their daily activities by Chinese authorities, according to Tibetan sources.
“The monks and nuns have already left,” a Tibetan living in Australia said, speaking on condition of anonymity and citing sources in the region.
“All who were not willing to live under the strict restrictions imposed by Chinese [authorities] chose to leave,” he said.
Speaking in an interview, Columbia University Tibet expert Robbie Barnett said there has been a “massive increase” in state intrusion into monasteries in the TAR in recent weeks.
Under current regulations, all monasteries in the region must now display pictures of Chinese leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao, and must fly the Chinese flag, he said.
“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.
Reported by Soepa Gyaltso, Chakmo Tso, and Rigdhen Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English with additional reporting by Richard Finney.