Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

International SQUALL

Increasing Oppression In Tibet

A new wave of Chinese repression is threatening not only Tibet's historic monastries but the future of its spiritual leadership. Tim Malyon reports.

Squall 13, Summer 1996, pg. 52.

Political repression in Tibet has increased sharply since 1994, and there are now more political prisoners in custody there than at any time in the last six years,” according to a new study published jointly by Human Rights Watch/Asia, the New York-based human rights monitoring group, and the Tibet Information Network in London.

The report lays part of the blame on “a decrease in international pressure on China to improve its human rights record.” In May President Clinton renewed US ‘Most Favoured Nation’ trading status for China and Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine led a delegation of 270 British businessmen to Beijing. He declined any guarantee that he would even raise human rights in Tibet as an issue during the visit.

More than 230 Tibetans were detained for political offences in 1995, a fifty per cent increase on 1994, bringing the total known numbers in prison to over 600. Some monasteries and nunneries have been closed - the nuns of Shongchen Nunnery in Ngamring County were ordered last November to leave their monastery, demolish their living quarters, and not join any other nunnery. The monk who had inspired the rebuilding of the nunnery after its destruction during the Cultural Revolution, Lama Khedrup Gyatso, was taken away in a jeep and has disappeared.

Six bombings have been reported, with one person injured. It is impossible to judge whether such actions mark a new phase in what has been an entirely non-violent liberation movement since the ending of guerrilla warfare in 1974. There are rumours in Lhasa of Chinese involvement in at least some of these explosions.

Now a new wave of oppression is taking place, criminalising dissent. At a televised mobilisation rally in May a three month “people’s war on crime” against “sabotage by separatists and other serious criminals” was announced. Informing is encouraged.

For the first time in 16 years pictures and photographs of the Dalai Lama are being forcibly removed from monasteries, including the Jokhang in Lhasa, as well as hotels, restaurants and houses. House to house searches have started. Street traders are displaying empty frames in a gesture of defiance alongside pictures of permitted priests.

According to the independent Tibet Information Network at least forty monks were arrested on May 7th at Ganden Monastery outside Lhasa. When officials arrived to impose the Dalai Lama picture ban they were stoned. An older monk stopped the stoning. Children were hastily evacuated before police arrived and the inevitable reprisals began. Two monks are said to have been shot dead and another so badly beaten on the base of his skull that he is having fits and can barely speak. The monastery is virtually deserted, almost all remaining monks having walked out in protest. Beijing’s version is that it has been closed for “consolidation and rectification”. Ganden is not the only monastery where protests and brutal reprisals have occurred, sparked by seizure of the pictures.

In a rare first-hand report, Japanese tourist Takeo Fujimoto was at the Lhasa People’s No 1 Hospital on May 14th, with his sick girlfriend, when two truckloads of injured Tibetans arrived, the majority nuns, probably from nearby Garu nunnery.

“Some people were walking, some people could not walk. They were holding each other, and some were crying and screaming,” he said. “I am 100 per cent sure that somebody beat them up.” Only the first truck was unloaded. “On the other truck I saw some legs hanging out from the back of the truck. They did not move.”

Pictures of the seven year old child, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, recognised last May by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama, the second most senior Tibetan cleric, have also been banned. Some 60 Tibetans are reported to have been arrested for their involvement in the Dalai Lama’s choice of Panchen Lama (see Squall 12). This child has now disappeared and the Chinese choice moved to Beijing.

Let’s be clear what is happening: As well as persecuting those who freely honour the present Dalai Lama, China is hijacking control of Tibet’s future spiritual leadership.

When the present Dalai Lama dies, there will be a gap of perhaps twenty years before the next incarnation comes of age. During this period the puppet Panchen Lama will be Tibet’s senior cleric, with huge political and spiritual influence. He will also wield decisive influence in the choice of the Dalai Lama’s next incarnation.

In one move the Chinese are usurping the Tibetans’ right to choose not only the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, but by precedent all high priests of Tibetan Buddhism who are succeeded by reincarnations - that’s by far the majority of them. Already, appointed monastery officials who burn pictures with insufficient zeal, or honour the Dalai Lama’s choice of Panchen Lama, are being replaced with “patriotic” monks.

Free Tibet Campaign (Formerly Tibet Support Group UK)
9 Islington Green
London N1 2XH
Tel: 0171 359 7573