Indian monastery aids Tibetan monks facing crackdown
The Kirti Monastery in Dharamsala, an Indian hill town home to thousands of exiled Tibetans, has become a crisis center for the turmoil at its sister monastery under lockdown in Sichuan, China.
(Page 2 of 2)
Local residents surrounded the monastery in Amdo Ngaba in an attempt to protect monks from being detained but were allegedly beaten by Chinese forces and attacked by police dogs. Two elderly Tibetans reportedly died in the clash.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Enter the monastery in India
Information about arrests, beatings, protests, surveillance, and police activity were conveyed along a circuitous network from Tibetan locals in China to Tibetans living in neighboring India, home to nearly 100,000 exiles.
News was passed along among Tibetans via clandestine phone calls, e-mails, and digital photos until it reached the Dharamsala branch of Kirti Monastery.
After the first piece of information made its way to them, Losang Yeshe and Kanyag Tsering, two monks at Kirti Monastery in India, became the de facto crisis communications team. They are in charge of the grim task of organizing detailed lists of arrested monks, trying to confirm names of Tibetan civilians beaten or detained while protecting monks, and liaising with human rights organizations and the media via regular e-mail updates and interviews.
Mr. Yeshe and Mr. Tsering both say they would prefer to do their prayers, attend classes, and study religious teachings. But with Kirti Monastery in crisis, the Tibetans fear for the well-being of monks and locals there. “We have no choice but to disseminate this knowledge,” says Tsering through an English interpreter.
In Tibet, monasteries are esteemed institutions of Buddhist knowledge and culture. The one under crackdown in Amdo Ngaba was established in 1870 and is one of the largest monasteries on the Tibetan plateau. Now, its future appears threatened by the lockdown.
Major monasteries in Tibet once housed thousands of monks. But because of restrictions over the decades, numbers at some monasteries have dwindled to hundreds, whereas sister monasteries flourishing in India house thousands of monks today. Tibetans “fear that Chinese authorities are now seeking to weaken Kirti significantly through this systematic campaign,” according to a statement from the International Campaign for Tibet.
Confirming the information the monks give them takes weeks, but Human Rights Watch says their reports are accurate.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied illegal detainment of monks and said that the monks at the monastery “enjoy a normal life and normal Buddhist activities.” However, foreign journalists and tourists are barred from traveling to the monastery in Amdo Ngaba and nearby areas.
Human Rights Watch raised concerns about the crackdown, noting that it is part of a series of arrests and disappearances in recent months of dozens of China’s human rights advocates, lawyers, Internet activists, and those who assert Tibetan national identity openly.
And in June the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances expressed “serious concern” about the wave of alleged enforced disappearances in China in the past few months, including of monks in the Tibet region.
“Enforced disappearance is a crime under international law. Even short-term secret detentions can qualify as enforced disappearances,” the UN group said.