Agam's Gecko
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Derge Gonchen Monastery
Gonchen Monastery in Derge County, Kardze.
Photo: I Love TIBET!

wo Buddhist monks have been shot to death by Chinese security forces in Kardze Prefecture, Kham (Ch: Sichuan), according to multiple sources reported by Times of London. This is the first documented fatal shooting by Chinese forces in Tibetan areas since the April 3 slaughter of at least 14 peaceful protesters (15 were reportedly killed but only 14 have been identified by name) near the Tongkhor Monastery in Kardze County. Deaths due to abuse in custody have continued.

The two monks belonged to Gonchen Monastery, a Nyingmapa institution with many branches in the region. This incident apparently occurred in Derge (also spelled "Dege"), the home of the last of the great monastic printing houses.

The tenth day of the sixth Tibetan month is an important religious festival for the Nyingmapa tradition, and the monks were preparing to hold their customary dances on the day, which fell on July 12. The festival honours the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche). Chinese officials posted in the monastery refused to allow the religous ritual, which led to a conflict.

Chinese officials in the monastery refused to answer the Times' questions. A government official was contacted, but he hung up upon hearing the question. On pain of punishment for revealing information, others contacted in Derge told the Times that there was "an accident".
The Tibetan sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that officers from the paramilitary People’s Armed Police were deployed to halt any violence and shots were fired. One said: "Two monks were killed. These were my relatives."
The occupation regime does not seem to like Guru Rinpoche very much. In May 2007 the PLA engaged in a wanton act of splittism by demolishing a nearly finished 30-foot gold and copper statue at Samye Monastery, which had been funded by Chinese Buddhists (Padmasambhava is revered by both Chinese and Tibetan Buddhists). In September 2007, a huge statue of this Buddhist saint near Mount Kailash was demolished, reportedly with explosives. CCP is China's Taliban.

In the last round-up I chided the Chinese for their schizophrenic inability to decide what they want. "Get those monks out of here!" is quickly followed by "Get those monks back in here!" The annual Lithang horse festival was banned, lest some uppity Tibetan should speak his mind like Ronggyal Adrak did last year. Now? The festival must go on, at all costs (huge deployment of military forces). It begins August 1, a week before Beijing's party starts. Horse racing at gunpoint is supposed to symbolize the "normality" (with Chinese characteristics) as presented to the world.

But you can't get too close. Olympics visitors, just forget it. While it would be feasible to attend this spectacular festival before returning to Beijing for the games, it won't be possible. Your hosts have a policy of complete isolation for their big Tibetan colony, and you will be banned from travelling there. Hopefully some adventurous journalists will get into some parts of Tibet by stealth. This is truth's only hope.

The arrests of three monks from Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Serthar County, Kardze while purchasing stocks in Chengdu, and the death of the father of two protesting nuns from Drango County -- after his prolonged harrassment by PSB officials -- is confirmed. Additional "work teams" have descended on Woeser Monastery in Markham County, Chamdo (Tibetan "Autonomous" Region) to conduct political re-education.

An ultimatum has been issued to Tibetan members of the Chinese Communist Party: get your children out of Tibetan-run schools outside the country, or else. Punishments for non-compliance will include loss of membership, loss of jobs, loss of pensions, and whatever else they can think of to take away from the insufficiently patriotic parents. The new regulation covers all current and retired Party members and government employees, and carries a two month deadline.

Tibetan Children's Village
An example of children's art, from the Tibetan Children's Village School, Dharamsala, India. Shocking.
Photo: Tibetan Children's Village
The problem is, China does not permit Tibetan parents to give their children a Tibetan education. This is something that can only be acquired outside their own country -- a damning fact of Chinese colonial rule. This is one of the chief weapons used to carry out what has been called a cultural genocide. Tibetans, even if they're Communist Party members, are not even trusted to bring up their own children. It's as though everyone were merely the property of the state. As someone said to me the other day, "Tibetan parents want to raise Tibetan children who will raise Tibetan grandchildren." The Communist Party does not want this.

The potential of these children, whose educations are about to be interrupted -- and possibly terminated -- can only be imagined. That it should be done for the purpose of ideological purity, and for the sole benefit of the Communist Party, is reprehensible. Let us not forget the sight of Tibetan refugees trekking over a snow-bound pass toward freedom, and being shot like dogs by Chinese border guards. It was captured on video by foreign mountain climbers, and cannot be denied by China's "deciders." A large proportion of that group (and of every such group fleeing into exile) are children.

In the last round-up, we reported on two monks from Gyalshoe Bhenkar Monastery in Driru County, Nagchu Prefecture (Tibetan "Autonomous" Region) who were arrested under suspicion of passing information to the outside world. CTA reports that two other monks from this institution were sentenced to two year prison sentences, and three others as well as six laypeople from the same township were given nine year sentences. Tension at this monastery has been palpable since December 2007, after some Chinese businessmen beat several of the monks, provoking strong protest against ethnic discrimination. The monks have been opposing their political re-education sessions, and about 270 monks and laypeople have been incarcerated in the Driru County prison.

Another Tibetan businessman, Thupten, was arrested from his house in Lhasa on July 10 under suspicion of political activities. The Lhasa resident hails from Kardze County, and is around 40 years of age. Tsultrim Gyatso and Chone Khedup, both monks of Labrang Monastery, Sangchu County, Kanlho (Ch: Gansu) who had been captured under gunfire by Chinese forces after escaping into the mountains, have been moved to a prison in Lanzhou (into China, out of Tibet). Ten monks from Kardze have been transfered to Sangyib Prison north of Lhasa.

Many monks at the Tokdhen Monastery in Ngaba County were driven out by the ideological re-education campaign, but the authorities have ordered them to return before July 15. Additional reinforcements of People's Armed Police arrived at the monastery on July 12 to intensify the pressure. Two monks from this institution, Lama Kyab and Trinkho, were arrested in March, but their whereabouts are unknown. For those who return, Big Brother will be watching.
It is also reported that on the pretext of laying new electrical wires, the security forces have installed surveillance cameras to monitor the activities of the monks in the monastery's main assembly hall.
A kind reader offers some background on Tokdhen Monastery, a famous Bon (indigenous Tibetan religion predating Buddhism) institution about 5 km northeast of Ngaba town.
It was the site of an ancient Bon hermitage, which was turned into a proper monastery only in 1666 by Togden Yungdrung Tsultrim. As is usual, it was destroyed in the middle of the 20th century and rebuilt in the 1980's. In recent times it had three different incarnates, who took turns with the abbacy for periods of 3 years. Recent estimates of nos. of monks: 588, including novices. It has been especially famous in recent centuries as the main education center for what is known as "New Bon."
What a delight it is to have knowledgeable readers. What we don't have in quantity, we make up for with quality! (My quality readers will certainly not need to be told who destroyed the monastery in the 20th century.)

Chinese authorities are convinced that they (and only they) can do anything right, and they are anxious to prove it -- even at the cost of making matters worse. A grazing land dispute was reported recently between two Tibetan nomadic villages in Batang County, Kardze Prefecture. The dispute was resolved by the traditional mediation of local respected leaders, but the Public Insecurity Bureau decided that this settlement was unsatisfactory and unconstitutional. PSB officials took a resolved dispute and quickly unresolved it, awarding the grazing land to one of the villages on the basis that "only the government can decide over disputes."
This enraged the hundred plus nomadic households belonging to the Gangri Lungpa community who complaint about injustice and accused the authorities of fomenting division between the Tibetan communities [splittists! -ed.]. The group also rejected the decision and told the authorities to leave the place, ensuing heated arguments. The authorities then resorted to intimidating the local Tibetans by pointing their guns towards the crowd, which further escalated the situation. With the crowd getting more irked, they smashed two mobile phones from the hands of the security officials and started to shout slogans. They called for the "Long Life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama", "Tibet belongs to Tibetans" and "Tibet is independent" and at the same time attacked the two vehicles brought in by the officials with stones. The officials had to flee the place.
This is the wisdom displayed by the entity which the Tibet Communist Party boss Zhang Qingli calls "the true Buddha of Tibet" (i.e. the Communist Party itself). People have a dispute; people resolve the dispute by traditional means; CCP steps in and makes a complete mess of everything.

More (in)security forces and "work teams" were sent to the area to put down the protest, but by then all the men in the protesting village had taken refuge in the mountains. Chinese police and military forces have camped themselves at Gangri Lungpa and demanded the refuge-seekers to surrender themselves. None have done so. Nice work there, colonialists. Restrict traditional use of other people's land, fence off the wild pasture, provoke disputes over what little is left, overturn the customary mediation of said dispute, practically incite a riot in the process, and prove your manhood? What's the next step -- take the mountains with guns blazing?

Three monks from Ngaba County have been sentenced for "looting, burning and smashing" without the right of independent legal representation. In other words, without a fair trial. Kelba, 23, was sentenced to life in prison, Terzoed, 25, to 15 years and Tsekho, 27, to 13 years. It's not known where they are incarcerated.

Four people, including 74 year old Tsegyal Palbartsang, were arrested in Jomda County, Chamdo on June 29, possibly to pre-empt an expected protest. Local people mounted a campaign for their release, however Chinese forces arrested another 32 Tibetans instead. Most of these have since been released, but seven are said to be still in custody, including the elderly Tsegyal Palbartsang. Prison officials in Chamdo refused to accept him due to his advanced age, but he remains in the Jomda County prison.

Another monk has committed suicide after being unable to bear re-education pressures. Trangma of Drapa Yanden Monastery in Nyagchu County, Kardze killed himself on June 18 after the denunciation campaign against Dalai Lama, and orders to fly the red flag, struck at his monastery.
The monk had, before his death, opined that it would be spiritually improper and defilement of his spiritual vows to denounce His Holiness and had declared instead to cut short his life. Following the death of the monk, the work team in the monastery ordered all not to disclose the circumstances of the monk's death to anybody outside. The authorities warned of dire consequences if anybody found to be doing so. Even the school run by the monastery which accommodated 30 students at the time was closed down.
The atmosphere of near-daily protests in Kardze County has calmed somewhat, following an announcement by the authorities that some of those arrested Tibetans would soon be freed. However, none has been freed, and many people are of the opinion that it was all a trick to avoid further protests. The prefectural government has ordered restrictions on the movements of all Tibetans, and has restricted the sale of fuel in many areas for this purpose. Communications (phone networks, internet) remain under strict supervision.

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