Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Chinese authorities in revenge attacks on Tibetan monks

July 15, 2008

Radio Australia
July 9, 2008

Tourists are reportedly trickling back in to Tibet, four months after
China effectively closed the area to foreigners.

That followed violent protests in Lhasa in March and unrest in the
ethnic Tibetan areas of the neighbouring provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and
Qinghai. But one man who has had access to the region is Dr John Powers.

Presenter: Tom Fayle
Speaker: Dr Powers, a scholar in Tibetan religion and culture at the
Australian National University

POWERS: Well, I spent about three weeks in India, in Dharamsala, which
is the capital of the Tibetan exiled community and then I flew into
Western Tibet, into Kashka, which is normally a good way to get into the
Western parts of the Tibetan Plateau. In particular, I wanted to go to
Mt Kalash, which is an important pilgrimage spot and I went to some
travel agencies, and they said it was absolutely closed down. There was
no way anybody was getting in. So then I went to the eastern part to
Chin Hai, and I was able to get into some mixed Tibetan areas on the
other side of the pass that was the traditional separation between Tibet
and China. And then I went to Chengdu, to try to get into some mixed
areas and that was during the earthquake. I was actually there during
the earthquake and so the areas where I was planning to go to were
actually flattened by the earthquake.

FAYLE: Now you did meet some Tibetan monks. What stories did you hear?

POWERS: Well, the most striking one was from a monk that I met at a
Buddhist pilgrimage spot in China, who had escaped from a monastery in
Eastern Tibet and he said that when he was there at his monastery, this
was in late March, after the demonstration, some Chinese troops came
into his monastery and started shooting the monks, randomly so it wasn't
that they were looking for people in the protest. It was pure
retaliation for the fact that they protested. He said that three of his
closest friends had been shot dead right in front of him. He started
running, and he heard more shots and more monks falling and then he
managed to escape travelling by night over the next couple of weeks and
he has no idea of what actually happened, because he hasn't been able to
get any information in or out to his monastery.

FAYLE: We have been hearing that the monks in Tibet are being forced to
take patriotic tests. What's involved here?

POWERS: Well, it's called patriotic re-education. The program started in
1996 and it was originally confined to the region of centre Tibet around
Lhasa, the capital. In 2002, it was greatly extended, and now it's at
all of the major monasteries across the Tibetan cultural area, which
includes what the Chinese call Tibet and what has traditionally been
Tibetan regions. Basically there are variations, but I actually obtained
a classified document which is a manual that the cadres are given to run
these courses.

The main thrust of it actually is denunciation of the Dalai Lama.
According to all the monks that I have interviewed, the key factor is at
the end of course, which is basically Communist indoctrination, but at
the end of the course, they are required to sign a form officially
denouncing the Dalai Lama. Those who do, according to the monks will
pass the course, those who don't, no matter how good their grades have
been will fail and that means they are usually expelled from their

FAYLE: So, you say this expulsions from the monasteries. What other
consequences are there of failing the test?

POWERS: Well, the expulsion from the monastery is quite significant,
because it means that they can't function as a monk. It means they have
no support. Many of those who refused to denounce the Dalai Lama end up
basically having to escape, because they really have no way to continue
to live in Tibet as monks. So about 3,000 to 4,000 Tibetans are escaping
every year into exile, and the overwhelming majority are monks and nuns
and overwhelmingly they say the reason is because they are unable to
practice their religion.

FAYLE: So, apart from those going into exile, is it your sense that the
monks are going along with these tests in order to stay in the monasteries?

POWERS: Oh a lot do, and the Dalai Lama himself has issued statements
that have been spread across Tibet saying 'denounce me without
hesitation'. He says everybody knows that it's done under duress and
that you're being forced to do it. But many of the monks that I've
talked to who have escaped have said that they just can't bring
themselves to do it, even though he has told them to do it. It's such an
important emotional thing for Tibetans, the reverence they have for the
Dalai Lama that to denounce him is just something that's very, very
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank