religion and the anti dalai lama campaign



TIN News Review No. 25: Reports from Tibet 1996
Religious life in 1996 was dominated by the "patriotic education" campaign. This meant teams of Party cadres spending three months in each monastery in the Tibet Autonomous Region giving daily classes in history, law, and politics. The first session began at Ganden monastery in May, and in June and August large "work teams" moved into Sera and Drepung monasteries respectively, and later into other religious centres. The sessions were meant to end with all monks and nuns aged 18 or over signing a statement of allegiance and being officially registered in return. In late August about 150 monks were expelled from Ganden, and a similar number, mostly those under 18, were sent away from Drepung.

The patriotic study sessions were a formalisation of the anti-Dalai Lama campaign. This had continued in a less organised way in the first half of the year with a ban on the public display of photographs of the exiled Dalai Lama as part of an attempt to argue that "he is no longer a religious leader". Attempts to enforce the ban led to the 6 May conflict at Ganden, which led to the death of one monk and some 90 arrests. In Lhasa, government employees were forced to give signed statements stating how many Dalai Lama photographs they possess. Some Tibetans made a symbolic gesture of resistance by displaying empty frames on market stalls.

By the end of the year there were signs that new committees, probably dominated by officials from outside the monasteries, were being established to run monasteries where the "patriotic education" drive had been completed. "We must close the doors of lamaseries which have serious problems or where political problems often occur," stated Tibet's Committee of Nationalities and Religious Affairs. There is evidence that a few small monasteries were closed in outlying areas, but in general the authorities have avoided conflict and have allowed almost all monasteries to stay open, without their younger novices and after signing declarations of allegiance.



Nunnery and Monastery Closed Down; Religious Policy Tightens
A nunnery and a monastery in western Tibet have been closed down by the authorities, according to unofficial reports from the area, indicating that tougher restrictions on religion are being gradually implemented in rural areas of Tibet. The Chinese authorities in Tibet announced two weeks ago that monasteries where monks or nuns were involved in political unrest would be closed, and ordered religious believers to "dedicate themselves jointly to the construction cause of socialist modernization".

"We must close the doors of lamaseries which have serious problems or where political problems often occur for overhauling and consolidation and set a time limit for correction," said a statement by Tibet's Committee of Nationalities and Religious Affairs, carried on the front page of the February 15 edition of the official Tibet Daily.

The first reports of monastery closures indicate that the practice has already begun in some remote rural areas and in one case suggest that the "overhauling and consolidation" was permanent, since most of the buildings were immediately demolished.

The case involved 20 women at Shongchen nunnery, in Ngamring county, 100 km west of Shigatse, who were ordered to leave their nunnery on 29 November last year, according to the unofficial reports from Shongchen, which is in the southern part of Nakhu neighbourhood in Targyu township.

Local officials are said to have told the nuns that orders had been received from Chen Kuiyuan, secretary of the Tibet Communist Party, saying that all the nuns should return to their homes. They were told that they could not join any other nunnery, but had to resume farming work.

The women were given five days to demolish the buildings they had constructed at the nunnery as living quarters. The temple they had built appears to have been allowed to remain standing, but the nuns were told they could not use it.

The nearby monastery of Doglho, which contained ten monks, is also said to have been closed down and the monks ordered to return to their homes.

The reports, which are unconfirmed, do not make it clear if the nuns and monks had been involved in political activity, but say that the lama in charge of the nunnery "was taken away in a jeep and has disappeared", suggesting that he has been arrested. Lama Khedrup Gyatso, who comes from Kham in eastern Tibet, had inspired the reconstruction of the temple in Shongchen, which had been destroyed during the Chinese authorities crack-down on culture and religion between 1959 and 1979. The reconstruction, only recently completed, was funded by donations from local Tibetans.



Dalai Lama Photographs Banned from Monasteries: no longer a religious leader
Monasteries in Tibet have been forbidden to display photographs of the exiled Dalai Lama and police in Lhasa are ordering hotels and restaurants to remove all pictures of the exiled leader as part of an escalating campaign by the Chinese authorities to weaken religious support for the Dalai Lama.

Plain-clothes police visited hotels and restaurants in the Tibetan capital on 22 and 23 April ordering Tibetans to take down photographs of the leader, who fled from Tibet 37 years ago and now heads an exile government in India.

The ban is the most confrontational step taken so far by the Chinese authorities in a year-long campaign against the personal standing of the Dalai Lama. It reverses a 15 year policy which symbolised the liberalisations of the early 1980s by allowing the Tibetans the freedom to show religious respect to their exiled leader despite his political views.

A Chinese Embassy official in London refused to comment on the reports, saying it had not received news of such a ban.

The police visits to Lhasa hotels came two weeks after a ban on public display of photographs of the Dalai Lama was announced on the front page of the 5 April edition of Xizang Ribao, the Chinese-language edition of the Tibet Daily, the official Party paper, a copy of which has just reached London. The ban was repeated in the Tibetan-language edition of the paper two days later. "The hanging of the Dalai's portrait in temples should gradually be banned," said the announcement.



1,000 Monks Face Expulsion in Lhasa Re-education Drive
Over 300 officials are carrying out a purge of dissident monks at the three main monasteries in Tibet, with some 1,000 or more monks being asked to sign pledges of political allegiance or face expulsion from their monastery, according to unofficial reports from Lhasa.

Last week a team consisting of an estimated 150 officials from the Communist Party began an operation to register and re-educate monks in Drepung monastery, 4 km to the west of the Tibetan capital. A team of the same size has been carrying out a similar programme at Sera monastery, 3 km north of Lhasa, since 9 June, while in Ganden monastery, 40 km to the east of Lhasa, a team has been at work since early May. Each of the monasteries, established in the 15th century, has between 400 and 700 monks.

Tourists contacted in Lhasa today confirmed reports that there were large teams of officials at Sera and Drepung but said that both monasteries were still open to visitors. "We heard that monks here are having to attend re-education meetings with the officials," said one tourist in the city, who asked not to be named.

"Many of the monks in Tibet will find it difficult to stay now. They cannot accept a situation where they have to sign a statement against His Holiness," said a Ganden monk who arrived in India this week and who reported that dozens of other monks had left the monasteries and were on their way to India. Over 120, or about 60%, of the Tibetan refugees who reached Nepal or India last month were monks or nuns.

On 5 August the authorities in Tibet announced an extension of the current "Strike Hard" or anti-crime campaign, which was originally scheduled to have ended last week, and called on "the whole society to go into action [to] fight against separatists' splittist and sabotage activities."

"In particular, greater efforts must be made to improve the work of clearing up and straightening out lamaseries," said executive deputy secretary Raidi, the highest placed Tibetan cadre in the region, according to a Tibet TV broadcast monitored by the BBC. "To do this, all offices, bureaus, departments and commissions of the region are required to take the lead," the announcement continued, partly a demand that offices send members of their staff to join the re-education teams.

The statement follows a speech given by Chen Kuiyuan, the Party Secretary in the Tibet region, on 14 May. "There are a few die-hard reactionaries in the monasteries who are hell-bent on following the Dala Chen told members of the Tibet People's Congress, according to a transcript obtained by TIN. "In order to beat the splittist and sabotage activities of the Dalai Clique and protect the normal religious life of the masses of religious devotees, we must carry out a carefully differentiated rectification of the monasteries within our region," he said.

The teams are involved in a two-fold operation, firstly registering or re-registering all the monks, and secondly getting the monks to sign pledges of political allegiance.



Pressure on Juveniles and Eastern Tibetans to Leave Monasteries
Only about a third of the monks at the three monasteries are believed to be registered, meaning that about 1,000 others have not already obtained authorisation to become monks from the police and the local Religious Affairs Bureau. Rules banning unregistered monks from monasteries are long-standing but have not usually been implemented.

A significant number of the unregistered monks are children, contravening a little-used Chinese law which bans those under 18 from joining monasteries. In May officials are reported to have ordered the monasteries of Drepung and Sera to close their schools for younger monks, all of whom are now being told to return to their homes by the work teams.

Regulations requiring monasteries only to accept local residents as monks have now been announced, leading to the likely expulsion of scores of monks who come from eastern Tibet, outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. The three monasteries are famous as training centres for men from all over the Tibetan Buddhist world, including Mongolia, and house large numbers of Tibetans from the Tibetan areas of Amdo, in Qinghai province, and Khan, in western Sichuan.

Twenty-four year old Konchog Dondrup was one of the Amdowan monks at Sera until 13 June, when he left for India, four days after the work team began the registration process at his monastery.

"On 9 June the Chinese came to the monastery and told the leader that all the monks should come to register if they wanted to be allowed to stay in the monastery." said the monk, interviewed after his escape.

"Registration involves giving your details and giving your fingerprints, and making a commitment to accept political education which they were planning to give soon after. I felt that to register was a betrayal of His Holiness and so I decided not to register and to flee to India," said Konchog, who added that Eastern Tibetans were not being allowed to register at Sera even if they accepted the conditions.



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