Two Monks from Panchen Lamas Monastery Commit Suicide

2008-01-16
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DHARAMSALA—Two senior monks of the Tashilhunpo monastery in Tibet’s second city, Shigatse, have committed suicide following a campaign of exclusion by Chinese officials there, sources in Tibet and in India have said.

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Gyaltsen Tsepa Lobsang, 71, and Yangpa Locho, 71, were found dead by hanging Sept. 8 and Nov. 4 respectively. Both were monks at Tashilhunpo, the seat of the disputed Panchen Lama and the scene of bitter anti-Chinese protests in the mid-1990s.

“One of Locho's students was involved in the incident of 1995 when the monks of Tashilhunpo monastery protested against the Chinese leadership,” one source told RFA’s Tibetan service.

“His student was arrested and jailed. Since then Locho was mistreated and ostracized in the distribution of duties and other assignments. He played a role in the recognition of the Panchen Lama who was never seen again and placed under Chinese detention,” the source said, on condition of anonymity.

The protests were sparked when Beijing selected its own candidate for the Panchen Lama, second in rank only to the Dalai Lama, and enthroned him in 1995. The candidate selected by the exiled 14th Dalai Lama was detained, together with his family, by Chinese authorities and vanished into China.

The Chinese-approved Panchen is unpopular in Tibet and lives outside the region

Chinese officials had also quashed a publication of Buddhist scriptures made by Locho, driving him eventually to leave the monastery and move in with relatives in Shigatse.

“One of Locho's students was involved in the incident of 1995 when the monks of Tashilhunpo monastery protested against the Chinese leadership.

“Ultimately he terminated his own life on Sept. 8, 2007,” the source said. Locho, who had traveled to India previously, died at the home of a relative in Shigatse town.

Another ostracized monk

The other monk, Gyaltsen Tsepa Lobsang was also ostracized by Tashilhunpo monastery officials, Tibetan sources said.

“This started when two of his disciples were allegedly involved in anti-government activities and condemned,” one source told RFA.

“Since then Lobsang was undermined in his assignments and looked upon with suspect and distrust. So he could not bear the torture of neglect and discrimination and hanged himself in his bathroom on Nov. 4, 2007,” the source added. He died at the monastery.

One monk at the monastery who knew both men and also asked not to be named said neither monk appears to have left a suicide note.

Both suicides were confirmed by the Tibetan Ex-political Prisoners’ Asssociation, based in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama runs the Tibetan government-in-exile.

At the time of the Panchen Lama controversy, Jadrel Rinpoche, a senior official at the monastery, was detained and imprisoned, and many of the monks who were members of the management committee appointed by the 10th Panchen Lama were replaced with new members who complied with the official line.

The 10th Panchen Lama died unexpectedly in 1995 shortly after making an anti-Beijing speech.

Original reporting in the Uke dialect by Dhondup Dorjee in Dharamsala and Dolkar in Washingon for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated and edited by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Original reporting in Tibetan

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