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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Chinese authorities in revenge attacks on Tibetan monks

July 11, 2008

Radio Australia
July 9, 2008

Tourists are reportedly trickling back in to Tibet, four months after
China effectively closed the area to foreigners.

That followed violent protests in Lhasa in March and unrest in the
ethnic Tibetan areas of the neighbouring provinces of Gansu, Sichuan
and Qinghai. But one man who has had access to the region is Dr John Powers.

Presenter: Tom Fayle
Speaker: Dr Powers, a scholar in Tibetan religion and culture at the
Australian National University

POWERS: Well, I spent about three weeks in India, in Dharamsala,
which is the capital of the Tibetan exiled community and then I flew
into Western Tibet, into Kashka, which is normally a good way to get
into the Western parts of the Tibetan Plateau. In particular, I
wanted to go to Mt Kalash, which is an important pilgrimage spot and
I went to some travel agencies, and they said it was absolutely
closed down. There was no way anybody was getting in. So then I went
to the eastern part to Chin Hai, and I was able to get into some
mixed Tibetan areas on the other side of the pass that was the
traditional separation between Tibet and China. And then I went to
Chengdu, to try to get into some mixed areas and that was during the
earthquake. I was actually there during the earthquake and so the
areas where I was planning to go to were actually flattened by the earthquake.

FAYLE: Now you did meet some Tibetan monks. What stories did you hear?

POWERS: Well, the most striking one was from a monk that I met at a
Buddhist pilgrimage spot in China, who had escaped from a monastery
in Eastern Tibet and he said that when he was there at his monastery,
this was in late March, after the demonstration, some Chinese troops
came into his monastery and started shooting the monks, randomly so
it wasn't that they were looking for people in the protest. It was
pure retaliation for the fact that they protested. He said that three
of his closest friends had been shot dead right in front of him. He
started running, and he heard more shots and more monks falling and
then he managed to escape travelling by night over the next couple of
weeks and he has no idea of what actually happened, because he hasn't
been able to get any information in or out to his monastery.

FAYLE: We have been hearing that the monks in Tibet are being forced
to take patriotic tests. What's involved here?

POWERS: Well, it's called patriotic re-education. The program started
in 1996 and it was originally confined to the region of centre Tibet
around Lhasa, the capital. In 2002, it was greatly extended, and now
it's at all of the major monasteries across the Tibetan cultural
area, which includes what the Chinese call Tibet and what has
traditionally been Tibetan regions. Basically there are variations,
but I actually obtained a classified document which is a manual that
the cadres are given to run these courses.

The main thrust of it actually is denunciation of the Dalai Lama.
According to all the monks that I have interviewed, the key factor is
at the end of course, which is basically Communist indoctrination,
but at the end of the course, they are required to sign a form
officially denouncing the Dalai Lama. Those who do, according to the
monks will pass the course, those who don't, no matter how good their
grades have been will fail and that means they are usually expelled
from their monasteries.

FAYLE: So, you say this expulsions from the monasteries. What other
consequences are there of failing the test?

POWERS: Well, the expulsion from the monastery is quite significant,
because it means that they can't function as a monk. It means they
have no support. Many of those who refused to denounce the Dalai Lama
end up basically having to escape, because they really have no way to
continue to live in Tibet as monks. So about 3,000 to 4,000 Tibetans
are escaping every year into exile, and the overwhelming majority are
monks and nuns and overwhelmingly they say the reason is because they
are unable to practice their religion.

FAYLE: So, apart from those going into exile, is it your sense that
the monks are going along with these tests in order to stay in the monasteries?

POWERS: Oh a lot do, and the Dalai Lama himself has issued statements
that have been spread across Tibet saying 'denounce me without
hesitation'. He says everybody knows that it's done under duress and
that you're being forced to do it. But many of the monks that I've
talked to who have escaped have said that they just can't bring
themselves to do it, even though he has told them to do it. It's such
an important emotional thing for Tibetans, the reverence they have
for the Dalai Lama that to denounce him is just something that's
very, very difficult.
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