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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan monks forced to take "patriotic tests"

June 14, 2008

By Lucy Hornby
June 13, 2008

GANNAN PREFECTURE - Three months after demonstrations flared up in
Tibetan towns and monasteries across China, monks say they now have
to pass a patriotic test, possibly in September, to be allowed to
remain as monks.

Tension runs high in Gannan, a heavily Tibetan area in southern Gansu
province, which was convulsed by marches and attacks against
government buildings and some non-Tibetan shops, after demonstrations
turned violent in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 14.

Monks now struggle to pay fines and master texts on "patriotic
education", while armed paramilitary units guard access to main monasteries.

Work teams have moved into monasteries to supervise study sessions
that are supposed to break monks' allegiance to the Dalai Lama,
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader who China believes is responsible for
the unrest.

Monks say the teams are likely to stay until after the Olympic Games
are held in Beijing in August.

The slim, pastel-covered textbooks, in Chinese and Tibetan, cover
Chinese law, including laws of autonomous regions, and chapters
condemning Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama.

"We don't believe this, why should we?" said one Tibetan, dressed in
the dark clothes of a farmer.

"The whole world speaks highly of the Dalai Lama, why doesn't China?"

Another textbook, titled "propaganda material", has chapters on "What
happened during unrest in our prefecture" and "The history of how
Tibet became part of China".

The Dalai Lama fled to India after an abortive uprising against
Chinese rule in 1959. During that time, Gannan's monasteries were
stripped of valuables and emptied of monks, while people starved
under the drastic industrial policies of the Great Leap Forward, locals said.

"Now they think we are all terrorists, or 'Tibetan splittists' and
say we have to love the country," spat one young monk, switching into
Chinese to repeat the phrases.

A tall young monk sighed and buried his face in his hands when asked
how he would answer the questions.

"They have no choice but to take the test. This is what is called
'not free'," the lay Tibetan said. "We Tibetans have no right to say anything."


More than 2,000 people were initially detained in Gannan in March,
with all but a few hundred released within a month. Some of those
still in detention were charged with "intent to kill" after burning
local police stations or government guesthouses.

At checks along roads leading to monasteries, paramilitary policemen
asked if drivers were Han Chinese and checked cars before allowing
them through.

People's Armed Police in camouflage and helmets blocked entry to the
monastery in Hezuo, capital of Gannan prefecture. The dirt streets of
the monastery, known for its nine-storey Milarepa tower, appeared
bare of the usual traffic of monks and pilgrims.

Although China's constitution includes freedom of religion, in
practice Buddhism and other faiths are controlled through
government-run associations. It was not clear how widely the tests
were being enforced.

"The work team from the county seat tells us monks should only read
scripture, don't get involved with politics," said an elderly monk at
a tiny, remote monastery in Diebu county.

Monks in a monastery near Zhuoni, an alpine corner of southern Gansu,
shooed boys in maroon robes away before agreeing to talk to a journalist.

The boys, aged 11, were suspected of involvement in the uprising and
detained for three days. Their relatives had to pay a fine of 3,000
yuan each to release them.

Families also paid fines of 5,000 yuan ($725) or more to free monks
after 10 days to two months in detention. The amount is more than the
average annual income in Gannan prefecture, where most Tibetans live
in towns but some still herd in the high grasslands.

"I was terrified," said one monk who was held in the local police
station for 10 days, speaking in thickly accented Chinese.

"If families couldn't pay, they borrowed from others. Mine sold a yak."

(Editing by Nick Macfie and David Fogarty)
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