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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China tries to teach Tibet a lesson that the monks have refused to learn

April 23, 2008

Pictures of the Dalai Lama are banned under rules of patriotic education

Jane Macartney in Beijing
Times Online
April 22, 2008


 From civil servants to yak herders, barley farmers and street traders,
the residents of the Tibetan capital and surrounding countryside are
being subjected to a two-month re-education campaign to combat
anti-Chinese sentiment.

Under the latest drive to instil a sense of patriotism — titled “Oppose
splittism, protect stability, encourage development” — those involved in
the anti-Chinese Lhasa riots of March 14 will be asked to denounce their
actions and condemn others who took part.

China says that 22 people died when Tibetans rampaged through Lhasa,
stabbing and stoning ethnic Han Chinese and burning shops and offices.

For thousands of monks across the restive Himalayan region and in
adjacent provinces, such campaigns have become part of life in the
monasteries.

Reminiscent in tone and rhetoric of the Cultural Revolution, patriotic
lessons attack the “wrongs” of taking part in anti-Chinese protests or
demonstrations in support of the Dalai Lama as China tries to persuade
Tibetans to renounce their exiled spiritual leader.

Political education, an occasional if unwelcome interruption into
monastic life, has become a daily ritual for monks such as Wangchuk —
not his real name — who no longer have the freedom to watch the latest
DVD, surf the internet or chat with friends on their mobile phones.

Wangchuk's monastery has been his home since he was a child. He gets up
at dawn, offers holy water and lights a yak butter lamp to honour the
Buddha protector of his temple and the Dalai Lama — in all his 14
reincarnations.

Under more peaceable circumstances Wangchuk's afternoon would have
comprised an array of different activities, from saying prayers for the
dead “to help their soul reach Heaven” to debates with his fellow monks
or time spent with his teacher.

Now, the monasteries have been closed to the public and a very different
study session forms part of his timetable: patriotic education:

“This is compulsory. There's no excuse for not attending — unless you're
ill and then you have to have a note from doctor.”

The sessions used to be called for a week once every two or three
months. They now take place almost daily. “We gather in the main hall
and Communist Party officials deliver a speech telling us to be
patriotic and they give each monk a paper to read.”

This session takes place in the morning; in the afternoon the monks are
summoned to answer questions. “Usually it's pretty relaxed. If I can't
remember my answers then I just repeat the same as the monk in front of me.

“Sometimes it turns more serious. That is when the police arrive. They
stand beside each monk listening carefully to make sure each answer is
correct. If the police come we have to lie. We have to say, ‘I love the
Motherland. I don't love him'. They don't require you to explain who
‘him' is, because we all know.”

Beijing has blamed the recent violence on the Dalai Lama and his
followers. “We learn from the patriotic education that many things are
banned. For example, we can't have pictures of the Dalai Lama and we
mustn't listen to what people outside China tell us.”

In the past few weeks groups of Tibetan monks have staged highly
publicised protests, including hijacking official tours of the region
put on for foreign journalists.

The latest re-education campaign, which will include films and
television programmes, suggests that China fears the spread of the
discontent.
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