December 1, 2005

China cracks down on Tibet monks after protest

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING (Reuters) - Several Tibetan monks have been
detained for opposition to a Chinese political campaign they
were forced to participate in, sparking a rare mass protest,
two advocacy groups said on Thursday.

The Dharamsala-based Center for Human Rights and Democracy
said five monks at the Drepung monastery, on the outskirts of
the capital Lhasa, were expelled from the monastery and
detained after refusing to sign a document denouncing the Dalai
Lama as a separatist.

In protest, more than 400 monks staged a sit-in in
Drepung's main courtyard on November 25, refusing to denounce
the Dalai Lama and accept that Tibet is a part of China and
calling for the release of the five monks.

The Dalai Lama, the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet, has
lived in exile in the Indian town of Dharamsala since fleeing
after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, nine
years after Communist troops invaded the remote, mountainous

He has since been branded a traitor by Beijing but he is
still revered in Tibet as a god-king despite a government
system that enforces political study alongside religion to keep
the monasteries in check.

"According to reports from Tibet, monks at Drepung
expressed resistance last week to the denunciations of the
Dalai Lama required during the patriotic education campaigns,"
the International Campaign for Tibet, based in Washington D.C.,
said in a statement.

The army, police and security personnel quashed the protest
and monks who resisted were beaten, the Dharamsala group said,
adding that no one had been allowed in or out of the monastery

The director general of the Information Office in Tibet
said he was unaware of any unrest.

"We haven't heard of it and if it really happened like you
said, the related departments will go to investigate. But we
are not clear about the situation so far," Thondrup Dorje said
by telephone from Lhasa.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang could not confirm the
reports. "I must emphasize, China is a country ruled by law and
acts in accordance with the law," Qin told a news conference.


The political campaign and crackdown on the monks coincides
with a trip to China by Manfred Nowak, the U.N. envoy on
torture, who was to visit Tibet and Xinjiang during his
two-week stay.

Both are border regions with large ethnic minority
populations and some of the country's most high-profile
political prisoners, accused of instigating separatism or
opposition to Chinese rule.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said the
latest political education campaign in Tibet had been going on
since October. A recent visitor to the area said officials had
denied the existence of such campaigns or of political

Security has also been tightened at the Ganden monastery in
Lhasa since a rare visit in October by the Chinese-appointed
Panchen Lama, the International Campaign for Tibet said.

Beijing anointed Gyaltsen Norbu as Tibet's second-most
important religious figure in 1995 but the Dalai Lama chose a
different boy, exacerbating tensions between the two sides.