prison, expulsions and suicide for gangen choekor monks

A 20 member Chinese “Re-education” work-team arrived at Gangen choekor monastery in Namliing township, Namling county, on 29 June, 1996. This was, according to former monk Lhundup Jinpa, “the beginning of chaos in the monastery,” and has led to prison sentences, expulsions and even a suicide in the monastery.

When the work team arrived at our monastery to conduct the Patriotic Re-education campaign, they said that they were going to “clean-up” the monastery”, said 26 year old Lhundup Jinpa, who joined Gangen Choekor in 1986. The monastery had been renovated for damage sustained during the Cultural Revolution the previous year and at that time there were about 95 monks in the monastery.

“From that point on peace and tranquility lost all meaning” , Lhundup recalled. “First the rooms of all monks were searched for photographs of the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama recognized by the Dalai Lama. Then the monks below the age of 15 were subjected to endless interrogations and threats to disclose details of any “splittist” activities in the monastery.”

In the course of the interrogation it was discovered that a long life prayer to the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama had been carried out in early January 1996 and that printed copies of the prayer had also been made. The Omtse (chant leader) of the monastery was 31 year old Lhundup Palden who came from a small village called Chawa in Namling County. He was held responsible for these events.

“Lhundup Palden was made to pay dearly”, said Lhundup Jinpa. “For one full week he was heavily interrogated. He was then taken to Namling County Prison for one month where he was subjected to further intensive interrogations. He was next transferred to Nyari Detention Centre in Shigatse where he was detained for another two months. Finally, he was tried in Shigatse and was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment.”

In the course of intensive interrogations, Lhundup Palden was forced to reveal the names of other monks to whom he had distributed the prayers. “He was left with no choice”, explained Lhundup Jinpa. “One of the names he gave was that of 66 year old monk Lhundup Tendar was unable to bear the severe interrogations that followed and he committed suicide by jumping into the nearby Namling Tsangpo (Namling River). The workteams claimed afterwards that he jumped because he was stupid.”

Lhundup Jinpa reported an incident where posters reading Free Tibet appeared outside the room of Choejor, a 15 year old monk. Choejor subsequently faced a series of interrogations and finally exhausted, he “accepted” the alleged crime. Due to his young age he was not imprisoned but he was expelled from the monastery.

“Choejor’s parents sent him back to the monastery to tell the work-team the name of the monk who had pasted the poster outside his room. Tenzin Tsundue, aged 18, was subsequently arrested and taken to the county prison on September 10, 1996, where he was kept for 15 days. He was then transferred to Nyari prison where he was held for one month.

“Upon his release Tenzin Tsundue was not allowed to rejoin the monastery. His repeated pleas to the work-teams were never considered. Unable to cope any more with the situation, he eventually went mad.

“A country official was appointed the head administrator of the monastery. All the sacred objects were noted down and we were told that we were just there to take care of them. Nine monks below the age of 15 were expelled and the number of monks in the monastery finally dropped to 76. Appeals for some leniency towards the number of monks allowed to remain in the monastery were simply rejected.”

“Just before they left, the work-teams laid down certain strict prohibitions including: listening to the Voice of America or Radio Free Asia radio broadcasts, offering long life prayers for either the Dalai Lama or Panchen Lama, and possessing pictures of the Panchen Lama and the speeches or pictures of the Dalai Lama. They told us that the violation of any of these rules would result in the closure of the monastery.”

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