Nearly 5,000 Tibetan villagers in southwestern China’s Sichuan province committed themselves to good behavior at a local monastery on Friday, pledging not to engage in activities that fly in the face of their Buddhist beliefs, Tibetan sources said.
The more than 4,700 residents from seven villages in Thangkor town, Dzoege (in Chinese, Ruo’ergai) county, in the province’s Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, gathered at Soktsang monastery to make their pledges.
“At the gathering the members vowed not to steal, gamble, kill, get involved in scuffles, carry swords or loot,” said a Tibetan source from Tibet.
The villagers from Chukra, Soktsang, Ka Barma, Ponkya, Dokok, Goser and Tsangwa villages assembled at the behest of senior religious leaders as well as officials from local organizations and governments, he said.
Yongdrub, head of the Communist Party and mayor of Thangkor town, and Ape Tsering, head of the town’s police station, were present, he said.
The gathering also included members of the local business community, said another Tibetan.
The villagers pledged to adhere to several rules, including a requirement that thieves pay owners the value of their property and a fine equal to 30 percent of the value to the local government, he said.
“There were several clauses in the vows that the members of the community committed to,” he said.
Those who do not comply with the terms of their vows will be handed over to the police and be subject to punishment according to the law, the source said.
In addition, the family members of the perpetrators will be excluded from religious services at local monasteries for five years, he said.
Those who commit murder must pay compensation of 300,000 Chinese yuan (U.S. $47,288) to the families of victims, he said.
Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan-populated regions of China have frequently become the focus of efforts to promote not only religion but also Tibetan national and cultural values, according to Tibetan sources.
Those who live in western China’s Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces typically take such vows of good behavior at monasteries on special occasions such as the Lunar New Year and the Tibetan New Year Losar.
Annual public assemblies at the monasteries have greatly increased in size in recent years, as thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their cultural identity in the face of Beijing’s cultural and political domination.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.