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China arrests Tibetan monks ahead of Lama's b'day

By Staff

London, Jul 7: China is back to its torturing ways. Fearing a large scale revolt on the occasion of the birthday of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, the Chinese authorities are virtually emptying out Tibet's main monasteries and banning visits to a sacred site on the edge of Tibetan capital Lhasa.

A report by the London-based The Times claims that in the wake of the crackdown, very few monks remain inside Tibet's three main monasteries -- Drepung, Sera and Ganden, that lie near the city -- and to make matters more complicated for the locals, the Chinese officials have deployed troops and paramilitary police around the ancient religious institutions, which have served as a focal point for anti-Chinese unrest since early March.

According to the paper, dozens, possibly several hundred, have been arrested or are detained and are under investigation for their roles in the anti-Chinese demonstrations and riots that took place in Lhasa on March 14.

This, however, does not account for the empty halls in the three great monasteries. Several hundred monks are believed to have been living in each of them before the violence erupted.

Tibetan sources have revealed to the paper that most of the monks, more than 1,000 in total, have been transferred to many prisons and detention centres in and near Golmud City in neighbouring Qinghai province.

Most of the detained monks are young ethnic Tibetans from surrounding regions who had made their way to Lhasa to study and pray in the most prestigious spiritual centres on the Roof of the World.

Their detention is part of a policy to rid the monasteries of any monks not registered as formal residents of the administrative region, known as the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Family members say that the monks have been told that they will be incarcerated in Golmud only until the end of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The policy is part of a campaign by the Chinese Government to ensure that the Games, opening on August 8 and lasting for two weeks, pass off without a hitch and without protests from the restive Tibetans, they told The Times.

"They will be ordered to return to their home villages and will not be permitted to go back to the monasteries in Lhasa," one of the relatives of an incarcerated monk was quoted, as saying.

Sera monastery is supposed to house no more than 400 monks but is believed to have grown to more than 1,000. In Drepung, the largest monastery in the world - has been allocated a similar quota but has allowed as many as 900 monks to live in its high-walled compounds, and this development has had Beijing worried enough to order a crackdown.

Registered monks are given a monthly stipend that can sometimes be as much as 5,000 yuan (350 pounds) depending on the donations to a monastery and entrance ticket sales. Many prefer to spend their days playing video games and DVDs rather than reading the scriptures, they said. They voiced concern that the monasteries could lose many of their best Buddhist scholars if the monks were not allowed to return after the Olympics.


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