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Chinese authorities force monastery to close after contact with Dalai Lama PDF Print E-mail
[16 August 2013] Chinese authorities have forcibly closed a monastery in central Tibet following alleged communications between senior monks and the Dalai Lama. Chinas rigid control over religion in Tibet has also seen the recent cancellation of a major Buddhist ceremony in eastern Tibet and tightened security at a religious festival in Lhasa.

Monastery closure I Kalachakra cancelled I Security at Lhasa festival

Forced closure of monastery for contact with Dalai Lama

Ganden Dhargyeling monasteryOn 30 July, Ganden Dhargyeling monastery (pictured right) was closed by Chinese officials, with the expulsion of all the monks and a ban on all religious activity. Ganden Dhargyeling monastery is located in Shak Rongpo, Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) county, Nagchu prefecture, Kham (now incorporated into China's Tibet Autonomous Region).

It is believed the decision to close the monastery relates to allegations made in 2010 by Chinese officials regarding communications between senior monks and the Dalai Lama about the reincarnation of the monasterys spiritual head, Rongpo Choejey Rinpoche. In May 2010, the monasterys senior monk, Lama Dawa, was arrested and later sentenced to seven years imprisonment for his links to the Dalai Lama. According to a source quoted by Phayul, two other monks from the monastery were also arrested, though their current status is not clear, and an elderly monk committed suicide following harassment from Chinese officials.

According to local sources quoted by Phayul and Tibet Post International, several hundred Chinese troops were deployed to the area surrounding the monastery on 3 August. The arrival of the troops coincided with a summer festival organised by the Nagchu authorities. Local Tibetans, some of whom had voiced their displeasure at the closure of the monastery, were reportedly being forced to take part in the festival.

A visiting Tibetan dance troupe refused to participate in the festival despite being told their refusal would be considered political dissent. According to a source quoted by Phayul, troupe members told the authorities, Rongpo monasterys lamas are not allowed to contact the monastery, monks are expelled, monastery is closed. Horse race and dances are activities of celebration and what has happened at the monastery is not something that we can celebrate."

The situation in the Nagchu region was described as very tense.

Further reading: Phayul (1) I Phayul (2) I Tibet Post International

Major Buddhist ceremony cancelled
In July, Chinese authorities cancelled a major Buddhist ceremony in Gepasumdo (Ch: Tongde) county, Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) prefecture, Amdo (now part of China's Qinghai province). The Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) initiation ceremony, which had attracted over a thousand Tibetan and Chinese Buddhists and involved five major monasteries, was cancelled after the third day of teachings. Troops had arrived on the first day of the ceremony but initially took no action. After the third day the participants were ordered to go home. No official statement on the reason for the forced cancellation has been made.

Further reading: Phayul

China increases security at Lhasa festival
Chinese troops at Shoton festivalIn early August, over 1,000 Chinese police and security personnel were dispatched to oversee the annual Shoton festival at Drepung monastery in Lhasa. Security scanners were placed at the entrance to the monastery, with extensive checks for all Tibetans wishing to enter. The Shoton festival is a traditional celebration in which lay people offer yogurt to monks who have completed their annual meditation retreats.

Radio Free Asia quoted one Tibetan as saying there were as many security personnel as worshippers. The source added that the monastery has been turned into something that looks like a battle zone.

Troops at Shoton festivalThough there has been a security presence at the festival since the late 1980s, when the festival was used as an opportunity to protest against the Chinese regime, this years number of security personnel is believed to have been unprecedented. Despite this show of force, many Tibetans still attended the festival indicative of the determination to express their religious identity.

Further reading: RFA I ICT I Phayul

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