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New measures reveal plan to purge monasteries and restrict Buddhist practice in Tibet

International Campaign for Tibet, July 30th, 2008

Lhasa, Tibet (China) -- Sweeping new measures introduced in Kardze to purge monasteries of monks and restrict religious practice in the wake of protests across the plateau reveal a systematic new attack on Tibetan Buddhism that is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution.

<< Tongkor (Chinese: Donggu) monastery 60 kilometers from Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) town in western Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Kham). (Photo: ICT)

The new measures, which will apply to hundreds of monasteries, strike at the heart of Tibetan religious identity at a time of unprecedented tension on the plateau and are likely to create further resentment among the Tibetan people.

According to the new measures, specified in an official document from Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province (the Tibetan area of Kham):

  • Monks who express dissent or refuse to 'conform' can be expelled and their residence demolished
  • Tulkus (reincarnate lamas) could be 'stripped of the right to hold the incarnation lineage' if they communicate with foreigners or engage in protests against the Chinese authorities - a measure that is consistent with an earlier ruling that all reincarnate lamas must have the approval of the Chinese government
  • Buddhist practice will be suspended in monasteries where a specific percentage of monks have engaged in protest or dissent
  • Senior religious teachers could face public 'rectification' or imprisonment if they are shown to have even 'tolerated' peaceful protest activity

The document, dated June 28 and published in Tibetan on an official website1, has been translated into English by ICT below. Published under the name of the head of Kardze prefecture, Li Zhangping, the measures are aimed at "dealing clearly with participants in illegal activities aimed at inciting the division of nationalities, such as shouting reactionary slogans, distributing reactionary writings, flying and popularising the 'snow lion flag' and holding illegal demonstrations".

The measures have disturbing implications for the lives of monks and nuns in Tibet, and represent a further attempt by the Chinese authorities to seriously weaken the institution of Tibetan Buddhism. They emerge from the authorities' position of equating any expression of Tibetan identity with 'separatism', which has stifled debate, led to a climate of fear, and created a serious threat to the survival of Tibetan culture and religion.

Hundreds of Tibetans, including monks, nuns and laypeople, have been imprisoned in Kardze in the last few months for peaceful protests against Chinese rule since demonstrations began across the Tibetan plateau on March 10, the anniversary of the Lhasa Uprising in 1959. Tibetans in Kardze are known for their strong sense of Tibetan identity and nationalism; hardline Chinese campaigns against the Dalai Lama and economic policies that have led to the loss of their land and livelihoods as well as the extraction of minerals by Chinese prospectors have caused deep resentment in the region.

Monks and nuns in Kardze led a second wave of protests in the last few weeks demonstrating against the severe implementation of 'patriotic education' in religious institutions, which requires monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama. Many nuns in Kardze were also detained for protesting against the brutal treatment of other Tibetans in custody since March.

Kardze, one of 18 counties in the prefecture, has been the site of more known political detentions of Tibetans by Chinese authorities than any other county outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) since the late 1980s, according to an authoritative database maintained by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (http://www.cecc.gov).

Entitled 'Measures for dealing strictly with rebellious monasteries and individual monks and nuns (An order from the Peoples Government of Kandze TAP no.2),' the new measures issued by the prefectural government describe how monasteries with "10%-30% of monks or nuns participating in disturbances" will be systematically "sealed off, searched, suspect persons detained according to law and any banned items they have hidden handed over (to the authorities). All religious activities will be suspended, inmates will be prohibited from leaving the premises, and they will be cleaned up and rectified in the proper manner."

In an edict reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, the ruling states that the rooms of monks and nuns who refuse to be registered or who do not conform to the demands of political education will be demolished, and the monks and nuns expelled: "Monks and nuns returning to the monastery who cannot give a clear reason for having gone outside, who cannot make a clear stand with respect to the unification of the Motherland and rejection of the separation of nationalities will be expelled, and their cells demolished."

The Kardze document also places a strong emphasis on the public 'rectification' of senior lamas and religious figures, and states that those "who fail to make their attitude clear or take a two-faced stance will not only be strictly warned, but will have to give a detailed examination of their behaviour in front of a general assembly of the monastic community, and a written guarantee, and the giving of this examination and written guarantee will be shown repeatedly in newspapers and on television."

The new official measures also state that reincarnate lamas (tulkus) can be "stripped of the right to hold the incarnation lineage" and will be "severely punished by the law" if they attempt to communicate information about what is happening in their monastery outside, or participate in protests or "tolerate them." This ruling appears to follow from, and is consistent with, earlier controversial measures introduced in September 2007, 'Management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, which give the Chinese authorities final oversight over the selection process for reincarnate lamas.' (See: 'New measures on reincarnation reveal Party's objectives of political control,' ICT, April 15, 2007.) This new edict in Kardze means that not only can the Chinese state, that promotes atheism, approve or reject a candidate to be a reincarnate lama, but the government can also withdraw the title.

Like these earlier measures, the new edict is deliberately targeted at one of the core belief systems of Tibetan Buddhism, revealing the Party's agenda to undermine and supplant the Tibetan religious hierarchy and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama.

A translation of the ruling follows below.


Measures for dealing strictly with rebellious monasteries and individual monks and nuns
Order from the People's Government of Ganzi TAP, No. 2

These measures were decided by the third work meeting of the standing committee of the prefecture Peoples Government and are effective from the day of their promulgation. - Head of prefecture: Li Zhangping, June 28, 2008.

In order to defend social stability, socialist law and the basic interests of the people, the measures listed below have been resolutely drafted for dealing clearly with participants in illegal activities aimed at inciting the division of nationalities, such as shouting reactionary slogans, distributing reactionary writings, flying and popularizing the "snow lion flag" and holding illegal demonstrations are listed below.

One: Dealing strictly with monk and nun troublemakers.

1) In cases where those who have committed minor offences, show a good attitude in admitting their mistakes and submit a written statement of guilt, their head of household should be guarantor (that they commit no further offence), should keep them inside and ensure that they strictly follow re-education.

2) Those whose offences are greater but who are ready to admit them should, after undergoing re-education, make a sincere confession of guilt, give a voluntary account of the main points in their case and submit a written statement of guilt. Until they have done so, they will be held in custody doing re-education.

3) Those guilty of serious offences who show a stubborn attitude will be counselled strictly, given a warning, stripped of their rights as religious practitioners and expelled from their monasteries, and held in custody doing re-education.

4) Those involved in instigating splittism and disturbances, hatching conspiracies, forming organisations and taking a leading role will not only be strictly punished according to law, but will have their rights as religious practitioners annulled, be expelled from their monasteries, and henceforth not be able to serve as religious practitioners, no monastery will be allowed to take them in, and should they do so, the heads of that monastery's management committee2 will be held responsible for supporting and harboring splittists and dealt with severely.

Two: Dealing strictly with troublemaking monasteries.

5) Those monasteries with 10%-30% of monks or nuns3 participating in disturbances will be sealed off, searched, suspect persons detained according to law and any banned items they have hidden shall be confiscated. All religious activities will be suspended, inmates will be prohibited from leaving the premises, and they will be cleaned up and rectified in the proper manner.

6) Monastery management committees with officials participating in disturbances will be rectified in a timely manner, and in cases where an overt incident has occurred, or where there are no suitable personnel available, the local government will depute officials to assume control of management. During the period of cleansing and rectification, the monastery's financial control and all other management functions will be suspended.

7) During the period of rectification, those monks or nuns who do not assist the work of the committee, who do not agree to be registered and photographed, who leave the monastery premises as they please and refuse to correct themselves despite repeated reeducation, will be completely expelled from the monastery, will have their rights as religious practitioners annulled, will be sent back to their native places, and their residential cells will be demolished. Monks and nuns returning to the monastery who cannot give a clear reason for having gone outside, who cannot make a clear stand with respect to the unification of the Motherland and rejection of the separation of nationalities will be expelled, and their cells demolished.

8) Monks and nuns at monasteries involved in disturbances must re-register, and their cells in the monastery must be collectively numbered. The limit on the number of monks or nuns allowed to join the monastery must be reduced in accordance with the number who participated in the disturbances and the number expelled. Monks and nuns who continue to profess splittism, who covertly assist or participate in disturbances, or refuse to comply with reeducation will be expelled.

9) The management committees of monasteries that do not improve following rectification, where monks and nuns go out again and make trouble, will be investigated, and in due course, according to law, they will be removed from the list of registered religious institutions and closed down.

Three: Strict checking that the management committees fulfill their responsibilities.

10) Monks, Tulkus, Khenpos,4 Geshes5 and so on in the management committees of monasteries that, although not directly involved in disturbances, do not take a clear stand on the issue, do not fulfill their management responsibilities, are lax or implicated in instances of poor management, or fail to investigate and discipline monks and nuns who go outside and participate in disturbances must be subjected to careful scrutiny of their mistakes while undergoing criticism and re-education.

11) Management committee officials, Tulkus, Khenpos and Geshes who fail to make their attitude clear or take a two-faced stance will not only be strictly warned, but will be submitted to a detailed examination of their behavior in front of a general assembly of the monastic community, and obliged to give a written guarantee, and the giving of this examination and written guarantee will be shown repeatedly in newspapers and on television.

12) Management committee officials, Tulkus, Khenpos and Geshes who send secret reports or collude with foreign separatists, assist in disturbances, tolerate them, or incite others will be severely punished by law. In accordance with legal provisions, their political right of participation in government bodies, People's Congresses, People's Political Consultative Conferences and Buddhist Associations will be annulled, and all salaries paid for the performance of such various functions terminated. They will not be allowed to participate in religious activities with the rights of religious practitioners, and in the case of Tulkus, they will be stripped of the right to hold the incarnation lineage, and simultaneously the finances and financial management of monasteries under their control will be frozen and inspected, all instances of misappropriation of monastery funds or financial management contravening the regulations will be examined and dealt with according to law, as well as broadcast in prefectural newspapers and on television.



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