Monks, Nuns Forced to Return to Tibet County in Religious Life Clampdown

Chinese authorities in a county in Tibet have ordered residents to recall home any of their family members who are monks or nuns enrolled at Buddhist centers in western Chinese provinces as part of a bid to tighten controls on the monastic community, according to sources.

Those who fail to bring them back have been threatened with punishment by the authorities in Jomda (in Chinese, Jiangda) county in the Chamdo (Changdu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), including withdrawal of all forms of government aid.

The recall order, issued at a county-wide meeting held early this month, echoes similar efforts in Driru (Biru) county in the TAR's neighboring Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture to more tightly control the movements of monks and nuns and size of monasteries in areas seen by Beijing as centers of resistance to Chinese rule, the sources said.

“Families living in villages in Jomda must now send messages as soon as possible requiring the return of family members who are monks and nuns studying in monasteries or Buddhist institutes in Qinghai and Sichuan [Chinese provinces],” a local source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Places from which the monks and nuns are being recalled include the large Buddhist study centers at Larung Gar in Sichuan’s Serthar (Seda) county and Yachen Gar in Sichuan’s Palyul (Baiyu) county, both in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the source said.

“Government workers claimed that the order had come from [China’s] central government and must be obeyed, with consequences spelled out for noncompliance,” he said.

Monks and nuns who fail to return will have their names removed from county family registration lists, the source said, adding, “Their [state-issued] identification cards will also be made invalid, and any government assistance--of whatever kind or amount--provided to their families will be withdrawn.”

“Officials now say they must verify the IDs of monks and nuns [who come from Jomda], as well as ensure that monasteries are maintaining the official ceiling on the numbers of monks and nuns allowed to be enrolled,” the source said.

“They also want to make sure that no one younger than 18 is allowed to be a monk or nun,” he said.

Familes 'not hopeful'

Local families are now considering whether to ask permission for their returning sons and daughters to attend monasteries and study centers in Jomda itself, the source said, adding, “But they are not very hopeful, as authorities have already tightened restrictions on local centers.”

“For example, in January 2012, the study center at Boyak monastery in Jomda was ordered closed, and that was why monks and nuns from our area had to travel to Qinghai and Sichuan to study in the first place,” he said.

Two Boyak monks—Drubgyu and Jamyang Yeshe-—were taken into custody in March that same year for “activities opposing the government” and have now been placed under house arrest after having been held in detention for a year and a half, he said.

Tulku Trinley Rabten, also from the Boyak monastery, died in detention after he was not allowed to receive medical treatment, he said.

Another Boyak monk, Khenpo Khedrup, was detained for three months, he said.

A Chinese campaign to monitor the political views of Tibetan villagers has been particularly intrusive in Chamdo prefecture, in which Jomda county lies, with Tibetan families forced to display photographs of Chinese national leaders and monasteries and private homes ordered to fly the Chinese national flag from their roofs, sources say.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 133 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

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