Chinese authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in Sichuan are refusing to give passports to monks and nuns for travel outside China, though a ban on lay Tibetans being issued the documents has now been lifted after almost seven years, sources say.
No reason has been given for the continuing restrictions on monastics in Serthar (in Chinese, Seda) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, though the move may be linked to the role played by local monasteries in anti-China protests in 2008, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Following the widespread protests against Chinese authorities in 2008, all Tibetans—both monks and laypersons—were denied travel documents,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Beginning almost a month ago, the government began to issue travel documents to the general public, but the monks are still being refused,” he said.
Even former monks are now required to affirm in writing that they have no connection with any monastery, he said.
“We have asked for the reasons for this discrimination, but the officials have not given any explanation,” he said.
‘Door now open’
Speaking separately, a government-approved travel agent in Kardze told RFA, “The door is now open [for Tibetans] to apply for a passport.”
“However, some special conditions apply for monks and nuns who want to get these documents,” he said, adding, “This is government policy, and I cannot provide you with any details.”
Ordinary Tibetans now applying for passports in Kardze must work through travel agents, he said.
“We collect 3,600 yuan [U.S. $580] and issue a receipt, and if applicants show that receipt to the relevant government department, it will normally be easier to get approved.”
Once final approval is granted by the office of overseas travel based in the prefectural seat at Dartsedo (Kangding), the travel agent pockets his fee, he said.
“But if the application is denied, we will refund only 2,600 yuan [U.S. $419].”
“Anyone who is issued a passport must hand it back to the government once they have returned from their trip,” he said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.