12 monks arrested for opposing “patriotic education” campaign

Chinese security forces arrested twelve monks of Dingri Shelkar Choedhe Monastery during a night raid for opposing the “patriotic re-education” campaign on 19 May 2008, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

The Chinese authorities re-launch and reinvigorate the “Patriotic re-education” campaign in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) and other Tibetan areas in neighboring provinces for a stipulated two-month period covering almost every sections of society beginning primarily with the monastic institutions, party cadres, security forces and government employees, farmers and private entrepreneurs, educational institutions and common people, to denounce the Dalai Lama and the “Splittist forces”.

During one of those campaigns re-launched since 1 April 2008, the Chinese “work team” visited Shelkar Choedhe Monastery in Tingri County (Ch: Dingri Xian), Shigatse Prefecture, “Tibet Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAR’) on 19 May 2008, to conduct the “Patriotic re-education” campaign which resulted in a bitter and heated argument between the monks and the Chinese “work team”. According to the source, Ven. Khenrab Tharchin, a member of so-called Democratic Management Committee (DMC) of Shelkar Choedhe Monastery stood up while the campaign was in session by openly opposing the “patriotic re-education” and even told the visiting “work team” that he cannot denounce the Dalai Lama as required under the campaign. Another eleven monks of the same monastery stood up in support of Ven. Khenrab Tharchin and adamantly opposed the campaign in unison. According to source, after the incident, entry to the monastery was closed for faithful devotees and visitors. Monks were ordered from leaving their monastery compound and even cell phones were known to have been confiscated to curb the report of the incident from leaking to the outside world and the monks were even known to have been threaten with dire consequences if found ‘leaking’ the information to the outside world.

In order to avoid the public glare, on the same night, scores of Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP) forces and Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials stormed into the monastery and forcibly taken away the twelve protesting monks from their residences to unknown location. There is no information on the current whereabouts and the condition of arrested monks. The identities and origins of the those arrested monks were as follow:

1 Ven. Khenrab Tharchin, 32 years old, Drushe Village, Shelkar Township,

2. Ven. Tsewang Tenzin, Phelbar Village, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

3. Ven Tenzin Gayphel, Lingshar Village, Gaymar Townsip, Dingri County

4. Ven, Khenrab Tashi, Mashak Village, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

5. Ven. Topgyal, Drushe  Village, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

6. Ven. Tenzin Tsering, Bichu Village, Gyatso Township, Dingri County

7. Ven. Lobsang Jigme, Norgay nomadic area,  Shelkar Township, Dingri County

8. Ven. Khenrab Nyima, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

9. Ven. Dhondup, Che Village, Tsakhor Township, Dingri County

10. Ven. Tenpa, Lolo Langga, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

11. Ven. Samten, Shollingshar, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

12. Ven. Choedhen, Shollingshar, Shelkar Township, Dingri County

According to source, few days after their arrest, the family members of the monks went to enquire the local PSB officers about the exact place of their detention and requested authorities for visitation. Instead of listening to their request, the family members and relatives of those arrested monks were intimidated with stern warning for damaging the image of the government ‘and questioned their source of information about monks’ detention.

The stipulated two-months’ renewed “Patriotic re-education” campaign launched at the beginning of April following unprecedented protests across Tibetan plateau since 10 March, not only permeates the monastic institutions but also government employees, security forces, farmers, nomads, private entrepreneurs and educational institutions. The principle and underlying message of the campaign is to “vehemently oppose the Dalai ‘clique'” and “to expose the true nature of ‘Dalai clique'” and “March 14 riot”. Under the supervision of the Communist Party leaders, new committees were formally formed to formulate and execute the campaign across all sections of the society within two months stipulated time period. In the subsequent period, numerous cases of Tibetans having arrested or detained for openly opposing and defying the campaign were reported from numerous places especially from monastic institutions.

China’s Constitution, adopted on December 4, 1982, specifically provides, in “Chapter II- the Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens” – Article 36 states,  “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.”

However, as seen by the events unfolded since the beginning of this year in Tibet, in reality China’s grand promises of freedom for religious belief provide meager protections for human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people. This is evident from the re-launch of the “patriotic re-education” campaign in supplement to the last year’s implementation of the “Tibet Autonomous Region Implementing Measures for the Regulations on Religious Affairs”, on 1 January 2007(“Implementing Measures”), and the more specific Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism (the Reincarnation Measures).

The Chinese authorities, like in the past, have issued and implemented “TAR” specific measures on religious affairs such as the previous two measures and the “Patriotic re-education” Campaign. The prominent theme evidenced by these measures and campaign is the connection drawn by the Chinese Communist government between splittism, or threats to the Chinese state’s “national security”, “social stability” and “ethnic unity”, from Tibetan Buddhists’ religious beliefs and activities. Because of the close link between Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture and national identity, China associates the practices of Tibetan Buddhism as a threat to its state security. China nourishes a deep fear of any expression of religion as a guise for protest or unpatriotic activity. The Chinese government demands absolute loyalty from its subject and does not tolerate or allow any activities that construes as challenge or threat to its authorities. The Chinese Communist Party requires its citizens to “love the country”- to respect the authority of the Party above all other would-be competing loyalties. “TAR” Party Secretary Zhang Qingli, claimed that the Chinese Communist Party is the “real Buddha” for Tibetans.

On 29 May 2008, “TAR” Communist Party Secretary, Zhang Qingli, during a meeting of the Party heads under various administrative regions under “TAR” convened at Lhasa, formulated a six major areas of works to be carried forward in their respective areas. Of the six areas of works, the third point set to focus on the reinvigoration of “Patriotic re-education” campaign and proposed the head of the monastic institution to be more stringent in implementing the campaign in religious institutes under their area.

TCHRD calls for the immediate end to the practice of conducting so-called “patriotic re-education” campaign in Tibet and allows the normal religious practice to flourish in the monastic institutions. TCHRD also calls for the Chinese government to respect human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national and international human rights states. And it should guarantee immediate and unconditional access to legal representation, their families and any medical treatment they may require.