Chinese Troops Surround Tibetan Monasteries, Detain Monks in Driru

Chinese security forces have surrounded monasteries with paramilitary police and detained monks in a county in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which has been resisting forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state, according to sources.

The security forces in recent weeks have also been raiding monks’ quarters and family homes, seizing computers and mobile phones and conducting daily political re-education sessions for area residents in “politically unstable” Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county, the sources said.

About 1,000 Tibetans have been detained since Chinese authorities launched the crackdown in Driru in September when Beijing began a campaign to force Tibetans to fly the Chinese flag from their homes.  

“Over a thousand Tibetans from Driru county are now being held in detention,” a Tibetan living in Europe told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing information gained from contacts in the protest-hit county.

Among those recently detained are about a dozen monks.

Some 600 detainees are being held in Driru’s neighboring Nagchu (Naqu) county center, with 200 held in Tsamtha village in Driru, and another 200 held in the Driru county detention center, the Europe-based Tibetan Driru Samdrub said.

“All those Tibetans under detention are being questioned and given programs in political re-education,” Samdup said.

Three Driru-area monks were seized by police at the end of November while visiting Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, another source told RFA this week in an e-mail forwarded from Tibet.

“On Nov. 23, three monks from Tarmoe monastery in Driru were detained while they were on vacation in Lhasa,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“No information is available about their present condition,” the source said.

Monasteries surrounded

Meanwhile, eight monks from Driru’s Rabten monastery who had studied at Palyul, Sershul, and Sertha monasteries in neighboring Chinese provinces have also been detained, the source said.

“Tarmoe, Rabten, and Dron Na monasteries [in Driru] are now surrounded by Chinese paramilitary forces,” he added.

Samdrub said a monk named Tsering Gyal from Dron Na monastery has also been reported detained and “is now missing.”

The names of the other detained monks were not immediately available, and their present whereabouts are still unknown, sources said.

For over three months, Driru county in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture has been at the center of a campaign by Tibetans resisting forced displays of loyalty to China and the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The campaign intensified in early October when villagers refused orders to fly the Chinese flag from their homes, throwing them instead into a river and prompting a deadly security crackdown in which Chinese police fired into unarmed crowds.

'Politically unstable'

“The Chinese government has identified Driru as a county without political stability,” RFA’s source said.

“It believes that if Driru is not brought under control, this could have a disruptive impact in other areas, and they are conducting what they call an ‘intense and thorough’ political re-education program in which meetings are being conducted both day and night in the villages and monasteries.”

Area monks who have studied at Buddhist  institutions in neighboring Chinese provinces are being recalled for indoctrination, while monks who have visited India and Nepal are being targeted for “intense re-education sessions,” he said.

At Tarmoe, government workers arrived at the monastery after monks had left for a one-month winter vacation and demanded their return along with the keys to the monks’ quarters, the source said.

When monastery custodians refused to hand over the keys, paramilitary police forced their way in and “ransacked some monks’ rooms, taking away computers and other personal belongings.”

“They also raided the homes of monks’ families and seized mobile phones, radio equipment, antique swords, and other miscellaneous items,” the source said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

A total of 124 Tibetans in China have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by Rigdhen Dolma, Lobe Socktsang, and Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.