Tibetan Nuns Play Key Role

In Tibet, Chinese authorities have cracked down again on a nunnery suspected of inculcating separatism. The move highlights the quiet but pivotal role played by Tibetan Buddhist nuns.


Chinese authorities in Tibet have raided a large nunnery in Sichuan province after its leader refused to condemn the Tibetan exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, Tibetan sources say.

Security forces are surrounding the Buruna nunnery in Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi], Sichuan province and have detained 52 of its nuns, the sources said. Security police raided the nunnery, and the 21 nuns left behind were kept inside the nunnery all day.

“They were restrained with tied hands and detained for the whole day. Then their hands were untied and they were released after being held for one day, but still they are not allowed to leave the nunnery,” one  source said. 

“The nunnery is surrounded. Many security officials have entered the nunnery and placed it under virtual siege.”

Buruna nunnery—destroyed in the 1959 uprising, but rebuilt in 1983 and  expanded in 2000—is located on a hilltop near Kardze. Belonging to the Gelugpa sect, it usually has 89 nuns. Its leader is Tulku Phurbu Tsering, commonly called Buruna Rinpoche. 

Nuns at Buruna “were forced to criticize His Holiness the Dalai Lama and their teacher, who is known as Buruna Rinpoche. He is respected and revered throughout the Kardze area. He founded both the Burunga and Lhatseg nunneries in the Kardze area,” another source said. 

Another Tibetan source said Buruna Rinpoche was detained May 18 at 4 p.m., after he rejected the Chinese “patriotic education” campaign, which is aimed at stamping out suspected Tibetan separatism.

Nuns detained 

“Today, Chinese officials came to our nunnery and tried to force us to condemn and sign criticisms of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and our Rinpoche, Buruna Rinpoche,” one of the nuns said on May 20. 

“We refused, and 52 nuns went to Kardze town in two groups and protested, calling for the long life of Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso [the Dalai Lama.]. They also threw protest leaflets and protested. Now, I have heard that 52 nuns who went to the protests were detained.”

“Right now,  no one is being allowed in Kardze town. All shops were ordered closed. The town is full of security forces. I have only two wishes, and those are long life for Gyalwa Tenzin Gyatso and  independence for Tibet.”

‘Separatists’ held 

A local Public Security Bureau official, contacted by telephone, confirmed only that “separatists” had been detained.

“Several separatists were detained. They were detained according to the law of the country. So you can tell anyone you want,” the official said.

Tibetan sources too said that the number of detainees in Kardze prison had grown too large and that many detainees had been moved. “No one knows where they are being sent,” one man said.

Residents of a home for the elderly tried to appeal for the nuns’ release, since no one is looking after them now, but police stopped them before they could enter the Kardze town center, sources said.

Nuns play quiet role

Tibetan Buddhist nuns have played a quiet but pivotal role in protesting China’s heavy-handed rule in the region, including widespread protests that erupted in Lhasa in March and then spread to neighboring provinces.

Just last week, authorities in Kardze detained 14 nuns for protesting despite a massive security presence and handed jail terms to seven others for joining the March protests. 

The 14 nuns from nunneries in Kardze demonstrated May 11-12 in a central area of Kardze, near the local television station, witnesses said. They were protesting the detention of two nuns from Drakar nunnery on April 23.

Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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