KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities have expelled some 40 Buddhist nuns from a convent in the Tibetan regional capital, Lhasa, in what authoritative sources there describe as a renewed crackdown on suspected separatists in Tibetan Buddhist institutions.
According to one source who asked not to be named, new monks approved by the authorities are bypassing the lengthy process of preparing for monastic life and appearing at popular Tibetan monasteries carrying mobile phones for contacting Chinese officials.
Another source, a monk who recently fled to Nepal, told RFA’s Tibetan service 40 out of 50 nuns had been expelled in July from the Gyarak nunnery in Dzongshul town, in Phenpo Lhundrup County (in Chinese, Linzhou Xian), administered by the Lhasa city government.
“There were about 50 nuns in Gyarak nunnery. Some time in July , the Chinese authorities insisted on [their] participating in the patriotic re-education programs and abiding by the rules,” the monk said.
“One of the rules was to get themselves registered in the campaign by having their photographs taken…Only a few nuns—those who held important positions, six of them—had photos taken, but the rest refused.”
There were about 50 nuns in Gyarak nunnery...One of the rules was to get themselves registered in the campaign by having their photographs taken…Only a few nuns—those who held important positions, six of them—had photos taken, but the rest refused.
Religious affairs officials in Lhasa couldn’t be reached to comment on the reports.
In a separate interview, another man who also asked not to be identified corroborated the first account and described the ongoing “patriotic re-education” campaign as aimed at criticizing Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, whom officials have long viewed as undermining loyalty to the Chinese state.
“Chinese officials started the campaign in the area and all the participants needed to take photos, but only six nuns who held responsible positions took their photos. This nunnery is a subsidiary of the Talung monastery,” the man said.
The man said Chinese authorities in the region had renewed a campaign aimed at rooting out potential Tibetan separatists. A key component of the effort requires monks and nuns to sign a written statement condemning the Dalai Lama, sources say.
“All the monks and nuns must fill in a form—the most important is a criticism of the Dalai Lama, and other parts have to do with opposing separatism and so on,” a source in Lhasa said.
Ordinarily, only those monks who have studied for five to 10 years are admitted in the popular monasteries in Lhasa. Now the Chinese authorities are issuing red certificates to some new monks, and they suddenly appear in monasteries with cell phones.
In one Lhasa nunnery, a group of nuns refused to fill in the forms and were called individually to sign the forms or face expulsion from the nunnery, he said.
“This campaign is in full swing in all the nunneries and monasteries. Even in Tsuklakhang [in English, Jokhang] Temple,” Tibet’s main cathedral, he said. “Five newly admitted novice monks filled in the forms and agreed to condemn the Dalai Lama, so the other monks in the temple had to follow—they were extremely sad and embarrassed.”
The campaign was reinvigorated with the appointment of new members from a variety of government departments, the source said, adding that the new members didn’t know or trust each other well enough to overlook lesser infractions.
The task force is charged with “cleansing anyone who has allegiance to the Dalai Lama,” he said. “Ordinarily, only those monks who have studied for five to 10 years are admitted in the popular monasteries in Lhasa. Now the Chinese authorities are issuing red certificates to some new monks, and they suddenly appear in monasteries with cell phones,” the source said.
“If any kind of activity or prayer is performed with slightest reference to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, these new monks call the local officials. Even in the offering for those dead, if the Dalai Lama is mentioned, the officials are informed. There were cases when Chinese officials raided monasteries even before the conclusion of prayers if there was some reference to Dalai Lama.”
According to local sources, former political prisoners face increased harassment from authorities in the form of increased surveillance during public holidays and celebrations—apparently to discourage public protest.
“Every time there is a celebration of national event, security officials go to these ex-prisoners and harass them with all kinds of restrictions. Their movements are controlled. During the event, officials go to their homes daily to check on them and harass them,” one source said.
“When the former prisoners react angrily, the authorities use it as an excuse to raid their homes—and if they find any contraband, such as photos of the Dalai Lama, they go back to jail.”
The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), a nongovernmental group based in India, also reported that recently exiled monks describe an intensified official “patriotic education” campaign in Tibetan monasteries.
Original reporting by RFA Tibetan service staff in Asia and Washington. Editor: Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Written and produced for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.