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Monk suicides on the rise in Buddhist Tibet

June 9, 2009



Emailed in by Tenzin Norgay tenzinnorgay@TCHRD.ORG

A report submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion
or Belief on the factors and circumstances leading to the occurrences and
increase of suicides by Tibetan monks and nuns in Chinese occupied Tibet
since 10 March 2008.

The Tibetan Buddhist worldwide is currently observing this month as the holy
Buddhist month of Saka Dawa. 7 June 2009 (a full moon day), Sunday, will be
observed as the most important day of the holy month according to the
Buddhist belief due to the significance of the day being Buddha Shakyamuni's
birth, enlightenment and parinirvana falling on the same day. While the
Tibetan Buddhist - both the civil and monastic community - worldwide spend
the day with various religious activities and rituals according to the
faith, however, Tibetans inside Chinese administered Tibet face severe
religious repression enacted by the State and its agents. Restrictions and
prohibitory orders to the government officials and students from visiting
temples this month have already been issued. Reinforcement of security
forces and intelligence officials have been deployed across Lhasa city to
maintain "stability" during the holy month.

Religious freedom has been a distant dream for the Tibetan people since the
advancement of Communist China in 1949-50. The various restrictions and
conditions put forward by the Chinese authority in pursuit of one’s religion
were not only unacceptable but also contempt to the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. The atrocities that the Chinese
authority commit on Tibetan people, particularly monks and nuns while
pursuing their beliefs and religious practices, are not only the victim of
their power but it is also a failure of a sovereign state to protect its
people’s basic human rights.

Freedom of religion is severely curtailed in the Chinese occupied Tibet. The
monastic community has been the prime target of the authority’s crackdown
under a pretext to "reform" monks to achieve the so called "stability" in
the region. The monastic community has come under repeated attacks through
the government’s various nefarious campaigns to bring them under control and
to forge "loyalty to the motherland". Hundreds and thousands of Tibetan
people especially monks and nuns were tortured in prisons and detention
centres for practicing their religion. They were required to denounce their
own spiritual guru, to abuse their highly respected lamas and had to perform
all those acts, which are not permitted under monastic vows and code of
conduct, in name of "patriotic re-education" initiated by the Chinese
authority as a requisite to continue as monk and nuns. Though suicide is a
rare case among the Tibetan monks and nuns since they consider the human
life as precious, to acquire merits for the next lives and eventually to
attain enlightenment. However, under the ongoing persecution of monks and
nuns in Tibet’s religious institutions, they were subjected to extreme
psychological traumas and impositions of irreconcilable demands, which
eventually force them to commit suicide. The suicide has been on the rise in
Tibet’s monastic community since the Spring 2008 protests in Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhist believe that suicide is one of the heinous forms of sins
that violate the cardinal precepts of the doctrine. Buddhist monks and nuns
are known for their patience and resilience in the face of adversity. The
cases of suicides point to an indication of Tibetan monks being pushed to
the extreme limits of endurance and helplessness in the face of oppression
and repression by the Chinese authorities in Tibet. The monks and nuns are
left with no option but to embrace death since the requisites laid down by
the Chinese authority are beyond sanity. Though they can withstand the
torture and abuse to some extend but after a certain point, pushes them to
the extreme end of taking their own lives.

16 out of the 17 known cases of suicides and two cases of attempt to suicide
documented since March 2008 can be attributed to monks and nuns. This
pattern is alarming and clearly indicating to the level of religious
repression in Tibet. Some of the factors that caused suicide are 1)
psychological trauma during "patriotic education" campaign 2) heavy
crackdown upon the monastic community in the aftermath of pan-Tibet protests
beginning from March 2008 and 3) Anti-Dalai Lama campaign.

Psychological trauma during "patriotic reeducation" campaign

In the aftermath of mass uprising by the Tibetan people beginning from March
2008, the Chinese authorities have yet again singled out the monastic
community to direct their notorious patriotic reeducation campaign. The
campaign has earned notoriety in the past for its lethality and adverse
psychological traumas on monks and nuns. As a direct counter measure to the
spring 2008 pan-Tibet protests, the Chinese authorities immediately
unleashed a reinvigorated "patriotic reeducation" in the monastic community.
With fresh wounds in the minds of the Tibetan monks and nuns after
witnessing brutal crackdown in the form of indiscriminate shooting and
killings of Tibetan demonstrators, the monks were further subjected to
humiliation and mental agony during the "patriotic education" sessions. The
extreme humiliation and psychological trauma causing content of the campaign
led to the suicides of several monks and nuns.

Heavy crackdown upon the monastic community

Heavily armed security forces stormed monasteries across Tibet to crush the
strong voice of freedom by the monks. Monks and nuns were brutally beaten at
gun points in front of fellow monks to "filter" out the leaders and
initiators of the demonstrations. The monastic community has been vociferous
in the pan-Tibet protests as they came out in the street in huge numbers. In
order to make strong cases against the monks, the authorities reconstructed
scenes of monks committing crimes in the monastery to be recorded on video
which were to be later used as propaganda material.

In eastern Tibet, especially in Ngaba region, the security forces were
searching for the Tibetans who have sent pictures to the outside world which
became crucial evidence of the brutal crackdown by the security forces in
quelling Tibetan protests. The pictures cornered the government in huge
embarrassment as it has been claiming "restraint" on the demonstrators. The
monasteries in the region came under heavy scrutiny by government officials
looking for computer equipments etc from suspected activities by the monks
in sending pictures to the outside world through the internet. In search for
this evidence and also in video recording reconstruction of scenes of monks
committing crimes, the monks were subjected to extreme cruel, inhumane and
degrading treatment.

Anti Dalai Lama campaign

At the Third Tibet Work Forum held in 1994, the Chinese authorities
identified the Dalai Lama as a "serpent's head". Anti-Dalai Lama campaigns
were initially implemented in 1996 with monasteries and nunneries as initial
targets. Monks and nuns in Tibet are subjected to political indoctrination
wherein they have to denounce the Dalai Lama. The campaign later spread into
the lay community as well. Since 10 March 2008, the campaign was
reinvigorated and intensified gravely in the monastic institutions either
alongside "patriotic reeducation" or as an individual campaign. Tibetan
people revere the Dalai Lama as their spiritual guru as well as the temporal
head despite the fact that the Dalai Lama has been in exile for several
decades. The authorities launched vitriolic attacks on the persona of the
Dalai Lama and demanded the lay as well as the monastic community to
denounce him as a "separatist" and the sole instigator behind the spring
2008 protests in Tibet. This turned out to be the ultimate push for many
monks and nuns to commit suicide as they had already witnessed brutal
crackdown on the demonstrators which included family members and colleagues,
and to denounce the Dalai Lama was beyond their reason to live. 
 
Case Studies

1) Lobsang Jinpa1 committed suicide on 27 March 2008. He was a monk at the
Ngaba Kirti Monastery, Ngaba County, Ngaba "TAP" Sichuan Province. He hailed
from Ngasib Village in Amdo Ngaba. In his signed suicide note, Lobsang
stated, "the Chinese government has leveled false allegations against the
monks of Kirti Monastery for leaking State Secrets to the outside world,
leading and organizing the protests and for keeping the dead bodies of
Tibetan protesters shot dead by the Chinese security forces. However, all
the charges leveled by the Chinese government were not committed by anyone
in Kirti Monastery, but carried out solely by me". The note further stated
"I led the peaceful protest, and I am solely responsible for the protest".
The suicide note carried a poignant end line, it reads, "I do not want to
live under the Chinese oppression even for a minute, leave aside living for
a day."

2) Legtsok2, 75 years old, committed suicide on 30 March 2008. He was a monk
at the Ngaba Gomang Monastery in Ngaba County, Ngaba "TAP", Sichuan
Province. Days before committing suicide, Legtsok accompanied by two other
monks while on their way to perform prayer rituals at a house of a Tibetan
family encountered a large contingent of Chinese security forces heading
towards their monastery, Ngaba Gomang Monastery, to quell the protesting
monks at the monastery. The forces brutally beat Legtsok and detained him
for a few days. Later he was released and sent back to the monastery.

3)Thoesam3, 29 years old, committed suicide on 16 April 2008. He hailed from
Mehu-ru-mah Village and was a monk at the Ngaba Kirti Monastery, Ngaba
County, Ngaba "TAP" Sichuan Province. He committed suicide for being unable
to bear the pressure and repression that was being imposed by the Chinese
govt.

4)Trangma4 committed suicide on 18 June 2008. He was a monk at Drapa Yangden
Monastery, Minyag Township, Nyagchuka County, Kardze "Tibet Autonomous
Prefecture" ("TAP"), Sichuan. During the "patriotic reeducation" at the
monastery, the authorities made the monks denounce the Dalai Lama and
perform other sacrileges according Buddhist faith. Unable to bear the
circumstances, he cut short his life to escape the religious blasphemy and
denunciation of his spiritual guru, the Dalai Lama. The deceased monk’s aged
mother and other monks in the monastery were threatened with consequences if
they speak to the outside world about his suicide. As part of the "patriotic
reeducation" the school under the monastery with around 30 novice monk
students was closed down by the Chinese authorities.

5)Thokmey a.k.a Tsangpa Thokmey5 (prefix name used of his origin place)
committed suicide on 22 March 2008. He was a monk at the Ramoche Temple in
Lhasa. He committed suicide following massive crackdown by the Public
Security Bureau (PSB) and People's Armed Police (PAP) forces in Ramoche
Temple.

6)Namdrok Khakyab 6 committed suicide on 19 March 2008. He was a visiting
scholar at Samye Monastery from the Dorjee Drak Monastery. He hailed from
Nyemo County, Lhasa Municipality, "Tibet Autonomous Region" ("TAR"). He left
behind a suicide note that accused of unbearable suppression by the Chinese
authorities and cited innocence of other monks of the monastery and took
full responsibility for the demonstrations.

(7)Tashi Sangpo7 committed suicide on 21 March 2009. He was severely
subjected to harsh beatings, inhumane torture and long interrogation in a
local detention centre since his arrest on 10 March 2009. Extensive torture
and interrogation finally took its toll on Tashi Sangpo's mental state,
which eventually forced him to take his own life by jumping into Machu
River.

(8)Tusong 8 committed suicide on 16 April 2008. He was a 19-years-old blind
monk at Kirti Monastery and originally hailed from a village nearby Ngaba
County, Sichuan Province. Reportedly he told his family that just as those
with eyes cannot endure what is happening, "even I, a blind person, cannot
endure it".

(9)An unnamed nun9 in her thirties from Cholung nunnery committed suicide on
12 April 2008. She was traumatized by the beatings she witnessed by armed
security forces after a demonstration in Tashigang Township, Meldrogungkar,
Lhasa.

(10)Three unnamed monks10 from Dugu Monsatery committed suicide in an act
that may have been in protest against the crackdown and subsequent pressure
to denounce the Dalai Lama.

11) Lobsang Tsultrim 11 committed suicide on 3 July 2008. He was around 16
years old and a monk at the Kirti Dhongri Monastery in Mehu-ru-ma Village,
Ngaba County, Sichuan Province. His elder brother testified that Lobsang
Tsultrim came home from the monastery and said, "the Chinese official
work-teams have again arrived at the monastery. They have ordered the monks
to assemble for the "education". Again, they will not let us stay in peace".
With these words, he walked out from the room. After around 15 minutes, when
his brother looked for him, he was found strangled with a rope in the nearby
storeroom where they kept their firewood.

12) Shedup 12 committed suicide on 2 April 2009. He was around 40 years old
and was a monk at a monastery in Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) County, Malho "TAP",
Qinghai Province. He was first arrested for his alleged role in the protest
in Rebkong in March 2008. He was then severely beaten and tortured in
custody before being released. However, his name appeared in the wanted list
announced by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) around March 2009. Instead of
being rearrested, he killed himself to escape humiliation and torture.

13) An unnamed nun13, 21 years old, from Choekhor Nunnery committed suicide
12 April 2008. Earlier in the day many monks monks from Pangsa Monastery,
Tashi Gang township, in Balab sub-district; nuns from Choekhor (colloquially
known as Choekhook) Nunnery, Sibook Township, and monks from Dhomo Monastery
led a peaceful protest also joined by laypeople in Meldro Gungkar County.
Numerous monks and laypeople were arrested during the protest.

14) Lobsang Tsomo14, a nun at Chokhor Nunnery, committed suicide on 12 April
2008. She hailed from Meldrogungkar County, Lhasa Municipality.

15) Two Drepung Monastery monks, Kelsang and Damchoe15, both originally from
Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province, in Drepung Monastery stabbed themselves
in the chest, hands, and wrists to commit suicide out of desperation amid
protest on 12 and 13 March 2008 in the monastery.

16) Tapey16, a monk at Kirti Jepa Monastery, Ngaba County, Sichuan Province,
attempted suicide by self-immolated on 27 February 2009 as a mark of protest
against the ban of Monlam religious festival and the Chinese repression and
rule in Tibet. Apparently when he was on fire, eyewitnesses said Tabey was
fired upon three gun shots by the Chinese police. 
 
END NOTES 

Two monks commit suicide in Amdo Ngaba, 4 April 2008,
http://www.tchrd.org/press/2008/pr20080404a.html
 
Ibid

Ngaba (Ch:Aba) County, Ngaba "Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture," Sichuan
province - Repression leads monk to commit suicide, Updates on Tibet, 22
April 2008,
http://tibet.net/en/index.php?id=559&articletype=flash&rmenuid=morenews

A monk commits suicide due to "patriotic re-education", Update on Tibet
Demonstrations, 21 July 2008,
http://www.tibet.net/en/flash/2008/0708/21C0708.html 


Five Ramoche monks missing since April raid, September 2008,
http://www.tchrd.org/publications/hr_updates/2008/hr200809.html 

Nine monks sentenced, other committed suicide in Tibet, 10 February 2009,
http://www.tchrd.org/press/2009/pr20090210.html 

Ragya Monastery encircled, reeling under severe restriction, 23 March 2009,
http://www.tchrd.org/press/2009/pr20090323b.html 

Mass detentions of monks, suicides and despair as enforced condemnation of
Dalai Lama provokes dissent, 29 April 2009,
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/mass-detentions-monks-suicides-and-despair-enforced-condemnation-dalai-lama-provokes-disse 

Ibid

Aggressive anti-Dalai Lama campaign in Kham; imminent food shortages feared
as result of security sweep, 17 April 2009,
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/aggressive-anti-dalai-lama-campaign-kham-imminent-food-shortages-feared-result-security-sw 

Ngaba (Ch: Aba) County, Ngaba "TAP" (incorporated into a Chinese province of
Sichuan) - A teenager monk from Kirti Dhongri monastery commits suicide due
to "patriotic re-education", Update on Tibet Demonstrations, 9 July 2008,
http://www.tibet.net/en/index.php?id=285&articletype=flash&rmenuid=morenews 

Fear of arrest and torture causes Tibetan monk to Commit suicide in Tibet ,
21 April 2008, http://www.tibet.net/en/index.php?id=846&articletype=flash 

Meldro Gungkar (Ch: Mozhugongka) County, Lhasa municipality- Protests held
again, Update on Tibet, 26 April 2008,
http://www.tibet.net/en/flash/2008/0408/26C0408.html 

Identified list of Tibetans killed under China’s crackdown since 10 March
2008, http://www.tibet.net/en/pdf/tibetans_killed_2008.pdf

Tibetan Monks in Critical Condition After Attempted Suicide, as Protests
Mount, 13 March 2008,
http://www.rfa.org/english/news/politics/tibet_protest-20080313.html

Self-immolated man asked to amputate his legs, 13 March 2009,
http://tchrd.org/press/2009/pr20090313.html

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