Monks Flee Monastery

Chinese authorities clamp down on a renowned Tibetan monastery following a bomb blast.

Chinese authorities have banned religious activities and harassed monks at an ancient monastery in Tibet's Chamdo prefecture following a bomb explosion at a government building there last week, sources said Sunday.

Most of the monks at the monastery in Dzagyu Karma township where the blast occurred have fled the institution, saying they cannot bear the pressure piled on them by Chinese security forces.

The stepped-up security came amid rising Tibetan protests, including 10 self-immolations this year, against Chinese rule in Tibetan-populated areas.

Tibetans in Dzagyu Karma particularly are angry at a government program to resettle Han Chinese in their area and have warned of violence if it is not stopped.

Since Wednesday's blast, Chinese security forces and government officials have zeroed in on the Karma monastery, located on the eastern bank of the Dzachu River in Chamdo (in Chinese, Changdu) prefecture and founded in the 12th century.

They suspect that monks in the institution are linked to the blast, which badly damaged the building but left no casualties as it occurred at night after office hours.

"Chinese police, armed public security, and government officials have been coming to Karma monastery every day," one resident said in an email to RFA. "They conducted meetings, issued threats, and blocked all traffic in the area."

"They took each monk's photo and fingerprints and also collected blood samples from each monk. They also forced each monk to give three writing samples."

Security officials have also ordered another meeting with the monks on Sunday.

"In this way, the monks of Karma monastery are being subjected to extreme harassment and threats," the resident said. "Most monks have left the monastery to evade restrictions and harassment. Now only three elders monks are left behind in the monastery."

Foreigners banned

Other sources, including a travel agent, a hotel, and a television station in Chamdo, effectively confirmed the resident's account of the post-blast situation in Dzagyu Karma.

The travel agent said foreigners have been banned from entering the Chamdo area while all Chinese nationals have to produce residential permits and other identification documents as part of new security measures.

According to the resident, the Chinese security forces launched their clampdown of the monastery and took other security measures after finding posters and leaflets calling for Tibetan independence at the building after the bomb explosion.

The anti-Chinese paraphernalia could also highlight Tibetan anger over the arrival of Han Chinese into the area for employment, the resident said.

"Leaflets were thrown in the area and writings were seen on the building walls and other street walls calling for independence of Tibet and freedom for Tibetans."

The resident said the Chinese government recently launched construction projects in rural areas, known as as "Centers for Communist Party Projects,” aimed at resettling more Chinese in the countryside.

"The same construction [projects] are also going on in the Karma area."

Officially, the resident said, the Chinese settlers are meant to help oversee the welfare of the Tibetans in the rural areas.

Among the writings on the walls, one said, "‘Anyone who settles in the rural area should speak Tibetan. Otherwise, we will not accept them."

"If this policy of settling Chinese in Tibetan rural areas is not stopped, we will protest and may be forced to resort to violence."

Reported by RFA's Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai and Rachel Vandenbrink.