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Clampdown urged on 'migrant monks'

March 21, 2012

Party mouthpiece in Tibet also calls for greater controls to be placed on the reincarnation of living Buddhas, to maintain social stability in the region

Ng Tze-wei, Mar 20, 2012   

The Communist Party's mouthpiece newspaper in Tibet yesterday called for greater control over "migrant monks" and the reincarnation of living Buddhas.

A front-page commentary in the Tibet Daily said that in order to maintain social stability in Tibet - as directed by party general secretary Hu Jintao at this month's annual session of the National People's Congress - the region's authorities must further promote patriotic education as well as the so-called "nine have's" project for monasteries, which guarantees monasteries will have everything from roads and electricity to posters of party leaders.

They must also concentrate on keeping "migrant monks" in line, strengthen construction of Tibetan Buddhism institutes, tighten management of the reincarnation of living Buddhas and build a long-term management system for monasteries. "In order to maintain social harmony and stability, we must be firm in regulating monasteries, in accordance with the law," the commentary said. "Regulating monasteries helps preserve the normal religious order, and is an important platform for maintaining social stability."

Tightened control over monasteries since riots in Lhasa, the regional capital, in March 2008 has been blamed by rights groups for a string of self-immolations and protests across Tibetan-populated regions since 2009. Nearly 30 monks, former monks, nuns and laymen have set themselves on fire since 2009, rights groups say, mostly in the Aba and Ganzi regions of Sichuan but also increasingly in Qinghai province. The self-immolations have led to some Tibetan towns in those regions being put under strict security control, with journalists banned from entry. They have also led to the authorities further tightening control over monasteries.

During the NPC session, Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibetan regional government, confirmed that cadres would be permanently stationed in monasteries, with more than 21,000 already spread out over 5,451 villages in the region.

Tanzen Lhundup, deputy director of the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies at the China Tibetology Research Centre, said stepped-up control of "migrant monks" and the reincarnation of living Buddhas was necessary, as they had proved to be serious social problems in the years leading up to 2008. The measures had been in place for a few years and were "not related" to recent self-immolations, he said.

"Many of these 'migrant monks' are actually fake monks who have never studied Buddhism and are just pretending to be monks to make money," Tanzen Lhundup said. "A small number are real former monks who had to leave a monastery perhaps due to age or other reasons."

He added: "There has been a major surge in the number of living Buddhas that were not anointed according to Buddhist traditions … This is affecting the image of the real religious practitioners."

Under the region's policies, all monks must be aged 18 or above, and properly registered with a monastery and the government.

Tanzen Lhundup said he understood police would be called in to deal with monks who broke the law, while for living Buddhas not considered qualified, the government would consult local religious figures before making a decision.

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