Mass silent protest in Tibet’s Drepung Monastery following China’s continued implementation of “patriotic education”

Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital is currently under intense restrictions following a crackdown order issued by the “Tibet Autonomous Region” (“TAR”) government authorities on monks sitting on mass silent protest, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). Reportedly the situation is tense and the monastery under tight control by the Chinese authorities.

Since the first week of October 2005, “work team” officials have been conducting the “patriotic education” campaign in the monastery. During the Campaign, on 23 November 2005, the monks were ordered to sign a document denouncing the Dalai Lama as a “separatist” and to pledge their loyalty to the Chinese government by accepting “Tibet as a part of China”. The monks showed their disagreement to the official directive and refused to sign the document. Among the monks, five showed strong reactions against the document and the officials. They were immediately expelled from the monastery and handed over to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) Detention Centres in their respective places of origin.

Following the arrests, on 25 November 2005, more than four hundred monks sat on a peaceful solidarity protest in the front courtyard of Drepung Monastery. The protesters refused to abide by the authorities’ directives to denounce the Dalai Lama and to accept “Tibet as a part of China”. They also called for the release of the five monk arrestees, or on refusal to do so, demanded to also be expelled from the monastery. Fearing that the protest might grow unmanageable, the “TAR” government issued an order to crackdown on the protesters. A huge contingent of officers from the Army, People’s Armed Police (PAP) and PSB arrived at the monastery and quelled the protest. During the crackdown, the resisting monks received severe beatings. The peaceful protest was quickly quashed, and the monks were shoved back into their quarters.

After the crackdown, severe restrictions have been placed on the monastery and nobody has been allowed to either enter or leave the premises since 25 November 2005. The officers maintain strict vigilance of the monastery and the monks’ activities round the clock.
Apart from the five monks’ arrests, TCHRD fears that many more arrests might have taken place during the crackdown or thereafter. TCHRD will continue to monitor the situation.

There has been a paradigmatic shift of increasing religious repression in Tibet in the recent months. Beijing authorities’ suspicion of an alleged interlinks between Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan nationalism is clearly evidenced by official attempts to control religion through “patriotic re-education” campaign and arrests, torture and imprisonment. Under the “patriotic education” campaign in the various monasteries in Tibet this year, arrests and expulsions of clergy have been reported consistently. At least one death can be attributed to the Campaign. A young Tibetan monk, Ngawang Jangchub, 28, died under mysterious circumstances in Drepung Monastery in the first week of October 2005 following a “patriotic education” session.

The recent mass non-violent protest initiated by the monks of Drepung Monastery in Lhasa perhaps might be one of the biggest in a decade despite a climate of severe restrictions and repressions in the Chinese occupied Tibet.

The recent crackdown on the monks’ peaceful protest took place days after Beijing’s President, Hu Jintao, gave assurances of improving human rights to President George W. Bush, during the latter’s visit to China from 19 to 21 November 2005. Such assurances now seem empty promises in the face of severe restrictive measures imposed on one of the most reputed religious centres in Tibet.

TCHRD requests Mr. Manfred Nowark, the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture currently on mission in China and Tibet (from 21 November to 2 December 2005), to raise the cases of the five monks since they are likely to be tortured in the PSB Detention Centres.

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