The People’s Republic of China recommenced implementation of the ‘patriotic education’ campaign in monastic institutions in Tibet, according to testimonies received from Tibetan monks who fled into exile.
There has been a noted rise in the intensity of the campaign, which is being carried out vigorously in the monastic institutions in and around Lhasa City, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Monks who fled Tibet in the aftermath of the campaign reported expulsions of monks from their monasteries.
Three young Tibetan monks, who escaped from Tibet in September 2005, reported conduct of ‘patriotic education’ in June 2005 in their monastery, Talung Monastery located in Phenpo Lhundrup County, Lhasa Municipality, TAR. The monastery which housed around 120 monks reportedly has only 20 monks who are registered with the Religious Bureau. Earlier the monks were issued with five different political literatures to study; two additional literatures were distributed in June 2005. The monks were notified that officials from the County Religious Bureau would arrive in the monastery in July 2005 to conduct examinations. Monks, above 18 years of age, were ordered to condemn the Dalai Lama as a ‘separatist’, and to pledge loyalty to the Mainland China during the next visit of the officials.
Upon learning the pre-requisites set by the authorities for enrollment in monastery, a large number of monks left the monastery voluntarily before the arrival of the officials.
In another instance, in June 2005, the officials from the Religious Bureau visited Gyabdak Nunnery, located in Dzongshul village in Phenpo Lhundrup County, TAR, in June 2005. The officials conducted ‘patriotic education’ and demanded the 50 nuns of the nunnery to pose for individual photographs. Except for six nuns who are members of the Nunnery’s Democratic Management Committee (DMC), the remaining nuns refused to comply with the order. Consequently the officials nullified their enrollment in the nunnery and called for their immediate expulsion. Reportedly the pictures were to be used for official propaganda purposes. The expelled nuns are reported to be staying in their respective homes currently.
In the beginning of April 2005, officials from the Lhasa Religious Bureau began to conduct a three-month long ‘patriotic education’ campaign in Sera Monastery, one of the three great monasteries of Tibet.
The monks were issued six different literatures to study and four education sessions per week were conducted. The literatures were titled ‘Handbook on Crushing the Separatists’, ‘Handbook of Contemporary Policies’, ‘Handbook of Policies on Religion’, ‘Handbook on Law’, ‘Handbook on Ethics for the Masses’, ‘Handbook of History of Tibet’. The monks were subjected to random questions regarding the texts, and an examination was conducted at the end of the campaign in July 2005 to test their knowledge regarding the handbooks and their allegiance to the state. Reportedly 18 monks were expelled out of which eight monks faced detention in the Public Security Bureau Detention Centre.
In another reported incident, which could not be confirmed yet, 13 nuns from Shugseb Nunnery located in the outskirts of Lhasa City were expelled during the conduct of the ‘patriotic education’ campaign in the nunnery. Another monk-refugee from Drepung Monastery in Lhasa who arrived into exile recently reported that the ‘patriotic education’ campaign began in his monastery on the first week of October 2005.
On 31 October 2004, Lobsang Gyurmey, head of the Committee for Patriotic Education in Lhasa, in his opening speech during the weeklong workshop for officials in charge of ‘patriotic education’ in monasteries and nunneries in Lhasa, said, “Patriotic Education should be implemented absolutely in the monasteries and nunneries to prevent separatist activities. Precautionary measures should also be taken to stop the infiltration of literature from the splittist group based in exile.” [Referring to Dharamsala – temporary headquarters of the Dalai Lama.]
The ‘patriotic education’ campaign first started in 1996 forms one of the major causes of religious repression in Tibet. This campaign has created havocs in the life of the clergy and in the monastic community within Tibet. The campaign is used as a tool to stabilize and to exert control over what the Chinese authorities term ‘the hotbed of dissent activities’, referring to the monastic institutions. The forcible implementation of the campaign in garnering loyalty to the state is in direct contravention with many international human rights provisions on religion.
The monastic community is placed in an extremely difficult position either to comply with the Party and commit religious blasphemy or to leave the monastic life clandestinely or out of compulsion. The United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China in its 2005 Annual Report released on 11
October 2005 stated there has been “no improvement overall in human rights conditions in China over the past year, and increased government restrictions on Chinese citizens who worship in state-controlled venues or write for state-controlled publications.” It further stated that “the religious environment for Tibetan Buddhism has not improved in the past year. The Party demands that Tibetan Buddhists promote patriotism toward China and repudiate the Dalai Lama, the religion’s spiritual leader.”
Despite strong criticism from the international community, religious repression under the ‘patriotic education’ campaign continues in Tibet. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has documented known expulsions of 11,383 clergy between January 1996 and August 2004 under the ‘patriotic education’ campaign.