Tibetan Monk Hangs Himself in Despair at China's 'Interference'

A young Tibetan enrolled at a large monastery in northwest China’s Gansu province has hanged himself in protest over official restrictions on monastic life, citing hardships in the daily life of Tibetan monks and nuns, sources said.

Thabke, aged about 24 and a monk at the Labrang monastery in Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county in Gansu’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, committed suicide on July 9 “by hanging himself from a tree in front of the monastery,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

The source said the incident could not be made public earlier due to “communication restrictions” in Sangchu over the last week.  

Thabke “had confided to close friends that he wanted to end his life in protest against the imposition of a variety of restrictive regulations and policies,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Restrictions included limits placed on the number of monks and nuns allowed to be enrolled in monasteries in Sangchu, the source said.

“[Chinese] authorities have even interfered in the religious curriculum and have created severe hardships in the monasteries, including Labrang,” he said.

Founded in 1709, Labrang has long been one of the largest and most important monasteries in the historical northeast Tibetan region of Amdo, at times housing thousands of monks.

Thabke, a native of Sangchu county’s Ngakpa village, had protested against China’s policy of limiting enrollment at Labrang to 999, RFA’s source said.

“He also protested against the imposition of restrictions on religious freedom and prohibitions on the display of photos of personal teachers,” he said, adding, “Many monks and nuns who had wanted to pursue the study of Buddhism in the monasteries have had to quit and lead ordinary lives.”

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Reported by Lhu Boom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.