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China arrests thousands of Tibetan monks ahead of Dalai Lama's birthday

July 8, 2008

Mohit Joshi
TopNews, India
July 7, 2008

London, (ANI) July 7 -- Fears over the possible occurrence of fresh
unrests in Tibet on the occasion of the birthday of the Tibetan
spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, have prompted the Chinese
authorities into 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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