Monks Face New Restrictions

Chinese officials clamp down on expressions of national identity by Tibetan monks.
2011-03-22
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Two monks are shown at a Ngaba monastery in an undated photo.
Two monks are shown at a Ngaba monastery in an undated photo.
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Beijing has imposed new restrictions on monasteries in a restive Tibetan region in the wake of last week’s self-immolation of a monk protesting Chinese rule, according to Tibetan sources in exile citing contacts in the region.

The clampdown was aimed mostly at Kirti monastery in the Ngaba prefecture of western China’s Sichuan province and included restrictions on the movements of monks, forced political reeducation, and a prohibition of public celebrations of Tibetan exile government elections, the sources said.

Following the March 16 self-immolation of a monk named Phuntsog, and a subsequent police attack on demonstrations by monks and local Tibetans, “a large number” of Chinese security forces began to arrive in Ngaba on March 19, monks Lobsang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering said, speaking from India.

“Severe restrictions were imposed on monasteries and communities all across the county, especially on March 20,” Yeshe and Tsering said, citing sources in the Ngaba area.

“Monastery officials and community heads were told to ensure that no firecrackers were lit, no incense offerings made, and no lungta thrown,” they said, referring to the Tibetan custom of throwing small traditional paper "wind-horse" pictures into the air.

Tibetans in the area believe that the order was given because Tibetans in exile held elections for a new prime minister, or Kalon Tripa, and parliamentarians on Sunday, Yeshe and Tsering said.

The elections for the exile government based in India's hill town of Dharamsala were held outside Tibet, and involved tens of thousands of Tibetan exiles voting in more than a dozen countries.

Monastery, monks ‘criticized’

On election day, Yeshe and Tsering said, officials from Sichuan province and Ngaba prefecture arrived at Kirti monastery and announced that any monk wishing to leave the premises would have to show letters of permission from the monk’s class tutor, from a monastery disciplinarian, and from government officials stationed at the monastery.

On the following day, they said, a program of political reeducation called “Patriotic Religion” was launched, led by officials from the Sichuan province State Law Office, the Ngaba prefecture United Front Department, and the prefecture Religious Affairs Department, and by a work team from Ngaba county including the county chief.

“At 8 a.m. local time, officials came to start [the first] session, but no monks turned up, so they harried the monastery officials to 'correct' the situation.”

“Monastery officials then went to the individual monks’ rooms, asking them to assemble in the courtyard of the main assembly hall,” they said.

About 200 of the monks obeyed, and the officials began their speech at around 10 a.m., they said.

On Monday, the meeting was led by the head of Ngaba prefecture’s Religious Affairs Department, Yeshe and Tsering said.

“He strongly criticized the management and monks of Kirti monastery, saying they had failed to abide by state law and to observe regional security, social stability, and the ‘unity of nationalities,’ and he enumerated the many demonstrations that had taken place at Kirti at various times.”

Since very few monks attended the meeting on Monday, they were all told to stay in their rooms on Tuesday, with officials going to "each and every room to record the names, ages, and number of the resident monks.”

The monks were then told to assemble at 1 p.m.

The schedule for the now ongoing reeducation sessions is from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a second session from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Yeshe and Tsering said.

Reported for RFA’s Tibetan service with translations by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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