Apr 17, 2014

Tibet: Chinese Authorities Tighten Control On Monasteries

Chinese authorities have increased their restrictive policies on two Tibetan monasteries, accusing them of ‘separatist activities’. A private school for young monks was closed – forcing them to go to a government school –, surveillance has increased, and the authorities seek to remove members of the management of a monastery. The local population has been deprived of their source of livelihood as the government used their farmland for a reforestation campaign.

Below is an article by Radio Free Asia:

Chinese authorities in Qinghai province have closed a private school for young monks and implemented other “restrictive policies,” while moving to sack officials from a local monastery they have accused of “separatist activities,” according to sources from the region.

Authorities in Pema (in Chinese, Banma) county in the Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture recently forced the closure of the “School for Love and Altruism,” drawing concerns from its affiliated monastery and local parents about the education the young monks would receive at their newly-enrolled “mainstream” schools, said a Tibetan source from Dunda village, where the institution is located.

“The Chinese authorities in Dunda village … are implementing several restrictive policies, including the closure of a special private school and ordering its students to join mainstream pupils at the local government schools,” the source told RFA’s Tibetan Service. “[The] private school, called ‘School for Love and Altruism,’ and meant for ordained students from Dunda monastery, was ordered closed around April 10 [2014] by the Chinese authorities,” the source said.

The 70-odd young monks have been sent to two local government schools where they will learn alongside laypersons in a co-educational setting, he said. “The parents are worried [about what education] their ordained boys [will receive] when they are combined with the regular school population,” the source said. “So are the members of Dunda monastery.”

All expenses for the young monks at the School for Love and Altruism had been covered by the monastery, but parents would now be forced to pay for their sons’ tuition at the local government school, he added.

In addition to the school closure, the source reported that authorities in Dunda had also cracked down on a grassroots Tibetan unity campaign. In January [2014], Chinese police in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture targeted Tibetans participating in a similar campaign, detaining hundreds found wearing special ‘unity’ armbands or carrying photos of a senior religious figure backed by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Tibetans argue that expressions of ethnic unity are not a crime and are protected by China’s constitution.

Tibetan farmers in Dunda are also being ordered to plant trees as part of a reforestation campaign on farmland they would normally use for growing food, the source said. “The planting has already started and reduced their main source of livelihood—growing crops,” he said. The source did not say whether the farmers had been offered any kind of compensation for the land.

Also in Qinghai, Chinese authorities in Dzatoe village, in Yushul (Yushu) prefecture’s Tridu (Chenduo) county, are seeking the removal of officials from Zilkar monastery whom they accuse of separatism, a Tibetan source from the area told RFA. “The Chinese authorities are interfering in the works of Zilkar monastery … accusing the management team of the monastery of involvement in separatist activities and pressuring for their removal from management positions,” the source said.

“Members from the government work team have visited the monastery on a daily basis and poked their noses into all of its activities. Chinese secret service personnel are also entering the premises disguised as monks or ordinary laypeople and harassing the monks of Zilkar monastery.”

According to the source, authorities are also harassing and keeping close surveillance on monks who had previously been in police custody. “There is a state of tension facing the monks of Zilkar monastery,” he said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans setting themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009.

Photo by Flickr © Erik Torner