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Religious Persecution in Tibet - monks and nuns as ‘social prisoners’

October 15, 2013

October 11, 2013 - The Chinese authorities in Nagchu (Chinese: Naqu) Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are implementing an extra-judicial system of declaring monks and nuns as “social prisoners” (Tibetan: chi-tsog gi tsonpa) while implementing an ongoing patriotism campaign, said Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Oct 9, citing a testimony from a monk from the area who had recently fled to India. The label is applied to those who had left home to pursue their religious study in Tibetan regions outside the TAR but had been ordered back due to restrictions on movement. The move is part of a highly intrusive social control system in which new Chinese cadres are permanently stationed in the prefecture, as in every other part of the TAR, to exercise control over the Tibetan residents to ensure their manifest loyalty to the communist party ruled China.

The monk, Bhagdro, 23, hails from the prefecture’s Lhari (Jiali) County. Due to the absence of quality teachers in the prefecture, he had gone to study at the famed Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Serta (Seda) County of Karze (Ganzi) Prefecture, Sichuan Province. But rather than returning home to be persecuted as a social prisoner, he chose to escape to India. He was joined by another monk, named Deri, in his 20s and originally belonging to Sog (Suo) County, also in Nagchu Prefecture.

Bhagdro’s decision was prompted by the persecution faced by his two sisters, both nuns, who also had studied at Larung Gar. On their way back home, along with four other nuns, they were detained in the prefecture’s border county of Amdo (Anduo) for some 10 days. When they finally reached home later on, the police warned them never to leave home again, that they would be given punishment reserved for those illegally travelling to India if they did so. They were also barred from joining any nunnery again or visiting any place outside their home area and were, instead, required to report to the police every two weeks.


Under the new social control and patriotism campaign, Tibetans are ordered by the new cadres attached to their villages not to display pictures of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, in their homes and not to listen to or spread “rumours”. They are required to fly the five-starred red flag of communist ruled China from the rooftops of their homes and monasteries.


According to Deri, those who refused to fly the flag had their electric power supply cut. Those not deterred by this punishment were threatened with imprisonment for committing a political mistake, he has added. And the old flags had to be replaced by new ones every one or two months.

 Possessing a picture of the Dalai Lama in any form is also prohibited and severely dealt with. Deri was once caught at a police check post with a picture of the Dalai Lama in a small pendant he was wearing. The police yanked it off his neck and threw it away while beating and detaining him for two days, he was cited as saying. 

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