12/12/2019

Monk sentenced to 18 years in prison in restive Diru County

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Chinese security forces have stepped up their repression of Drong Na Monastery whose principal chant master was recently sentenced in secret to 18 years in prison in Diru (Ch; Biru) County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in the Tibetan province of Kham.

Thardoe Gyaltsen, the monastery’s principal chant master was sentenced on an unknown date in January 2014 even as other monks were forced to stop their religious activities, shut down their monastic quarters and an unknown number were also detained. The monastery has about 90 monks. Gyaltsen was detained in December 2013 but his family members and relatives had no clue on the location of his detention.  It is not clear on what charges he was sentenced.

Local Tibetans are of the view that Gyaltsen was primarily targeted for starting Tibetan language and culture classes in the monastery, which became quite popular as around 300 students attended these classes. “The classes have made enormous contribution in preserving and promoting Tibetan language and culture in the local area. Therefore under various pretexts of committing political crimes, the Chinese authorities forced [the monastery] to shut down the classes, with the aim of preventing the study of Tibetan language and culture. The police just barged into the monastery, ordered monks to close down their residences and detained chant master Thardoe Gyaltsen on charges of committing political crimes,” said the source. At present, no religious activities such as holding daily prayer sessions are allowed at the monastery.

He is believed to have been charged of keeping photos and copies of the teachings of the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama.

The source also said that many Tibetans have been detained, tortured and sentenced for participating in protests against the Chinese government at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 in Diru County. Among the arrested Drong Na monks, including Kelsang Dhondup, who teaches Tibetan literature at the monastery.

Chant master Thardoe Gyaltsen was born to father Jungney and mother Adrol in 1960 in Shar Ne Village in Diru County. At a very young age, he joined Ganden Monastery in Lhasa where he studied Buddhist philosophy. Since 1992, he has served as the principal chant master of the Drong Na Monastery, and since 1998, the head of the Democratic Management Committee of the monastery.

He is highly respected by the local Tibetans for making tremendous contribution to the monastery, especially in the field of administration, education, rituals and other monastic activities.

Drong Na Dechen Palbar Ling monastery was founded in 11th century. The monastery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but was later rebuilt by the then abbot Khenrap Chodrak, chant master Tenzin Wangchuk and other senior monks of the monastery.

Abbot Khenrap Chodrak, who was imprisoned for 15 years during the Cultural Revolution, was the uncle of Thardoe Gyaltsen.