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Mass expulsion of nuns and land grabbing in Tibet’s Diru County

The courtyards of Tibetan houses that were ordered to be demolished
The courtyards of Tibetan houses that were ordered to be demolished

Chinese authorities have demolished a number of houses owned by Tibetans and appropriated their lands in the name of development, in addition to tightening control over monastic institutions and expelling over a hundred nuns in Diru (Ch: Biru) County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Information received by Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reveals that in Pekar (Ch: Baiga) Township in Diru County, for three days beginning from 27 September 2015, Sangye Yeshi, the Diru County government head visited Jada Gaden Khachoeling Nunnery and expelled 100 of the total 200 nuns from the nunnery. Of the remaining 100 nuns, 49 are officially registered nuns. The rest of 51 unregistered nuns has no legal right to study, and are now working in the monastery’s administration, shops and guesthouses. Last year, 26 nuns were expelled from this nunnery.

A big Tibetan dwelling that was ordered to be demolished
A big Tibetan dwelling that was ordered to be demolished

The 100 expelled nuns have been barred from wearing their religious robes in their respective homes. They have been denied the permission to travel to other areas to study. If they did travel to other areas, their village head and their family members shall be imprisoned, and denied permission to collect yartsa gunbu (caterpillar fungus) for three years. Any registered nun above the age of 50 is not allowed to remain in the monastery. Authorities have already passed regulations stipulating that the above-50 nuns must leave the nunnery and join homes for elderly.

Tibetans performing song and dance at the opening ceremony of the Horse Race Festival at Sentsa Township.
Tibetans performing song and dance at the opening ceremony of the Horse Race Festival at Sentsa Township.

An ancient Bon monastery in Pekar Township called Ngotsar Phunstokling has come under attack. The monastery’s travails began when it started a philosophy class, which became a huge success. Accomplished scholars from places such as Khyungpo and other regions were invited to teach at the monastery. As a result, the students at the monastery learned a great deal, and the education and culture of the local area witnessed progress. Some 60 students have been enrolled in philosophy class at the monastery, but the local authorities have now banned the teaching of philosophy in this monastery, causing much pain and distress among local Tibetans.

Chinese Red Flag raised at the Horse Racing festival at Sentsa
Chinese Red Flag raised at the Horse Racing festival at Sentsa

The forcible closure of philosophy class at the Bon monastery is not new. In 2007, in the same county, the Chinese authorities shut down a Tibetan medical school built by a monk named Nyendak in 2000. Apart from Tibetan medicine, the school also taught Tibetan language to young Tibetans.

In Sentsa or Yangshoe (Ch: Yangxiu ) Township in Diru County, the farmlands owned by Tibetans for generations are being appropriated, and ancestral Tibetan houses, including courtyards, have been razed to the ground on the orders of the County government. Tibetan families who own big houses are subjected to severe criticisms, following which their houses are destroyed. They are then told to rebuild their houses in accordance to the standards set by the local government. Moreover, Tibetans are ordered to pay for the demolition of their houses and courtyards. Local Tibetans say the goal is to pave way for more Chinese to settle in Tibetan areas and to convert the Tibetan areas into Chinese, all in the name of development.

Forced Display of fur-trimmed robes at the Horse Racing Festival at Sentsa
Forced Display of fur-trimmed robes at the Horse Racing Festival at Sentsa

In August 2015, the County government ordered all the Tibetans in Sentsa Township to wear fur-trimmed robes and participate fully in the annual horse-race festival. As Tibetans refused to wear fur-trimmed robes, the government officials forced them to display these fur-trimmed clothes during the horse-race festival.

The series of repressive campaigns and policies implemented in Diru County in the past years have caused much suffering and discontent among local Tibetans. Many hold the county head Sangye Tashi, an official of Tibetan descent with a Chinese name ‘Zheng Gang’, responsible for the current repressive situation. Sangye Tashi hails from Chamdo. Local Tibetans say it was Sangye Tashi, together with Damchoe Rinchen, head of Sentsa Township, who had warned Tibetans follow their decrees or get imprisoned or denied the right to harvest caterpillar fungus.

A view of Jada Gaden Khachoeling nunnery and the residential houses of nuns.
A view of Jada Gaden Khachoeling nunnery and the residential houses of nuns.

Chinese authorities have long identified Diru County as one of the most politically unstable areas in TAR. A host of stability preservation measures has been implemented at the cost of human rights violations. In the name of urbanization and development, the authorities are depriving local Tibetans of their ancestral land and property, farmers losing their farmland and nomads deprived of their pastures. Impoverished Tibetan farmers and nomads are then forced to move, often to the urban fringes, their traditional source of livelihood taken away and unable to find employment in urban areas. In such a situation, it would be the Chinese migrants who would benefit from the ever-expanding urban landscapes, encouraging them to settle permanently in Tibet. Chinese authorities have devised other ways to ‘integrate’ Tibet fully into China: by encouraging inter-racial marriages. In fact, local TAR authorities have promised better incentives for Tibetans who get married to Chinese.

 

 

 

 

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