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China bans annual religious event in Barkham County

December 31, 2009

Phayul [Monday, December 28, 2009 13:54]
By Kalsang Rinchen

Dharamsala, December 28 - China has put a ban on an annual religious
congregation of Tibetan monks in Barkham County, and warned monks of
arrest or closure of the host monastery if they went ahead with the
event, according to a statement issued by the Emergency Coordination
Committee of Kirti monastery here.

The third annual winter session on Valid Cognition, (Sanskrit: pramana
Tib: Tsema) was to be held at Gyalrong Kirti Tsodhun monastery in the
eleventh month of the Tibetan lunar calendar but authorities imposed a
ban on the month long religious event that usually draws monks from over
fifty monasteries in Amdo and Kham regions of Tibet.

The religious congregation was first held in 2007 at Tagtsang Lhamo
Kirti monastery where it was decided that the four major monasteries of
Kirti Tsang, Tagtsang Lhamo Kirti, Ngaba Kirti, Tsodhun Kirti and
Hortsang Kirti would take turns to host the event. The event was last
year held at Ngaba Kirti monastery but the Chinese government placed
severe restrictions on it and cordoned off the monastery not allowing
monks and devotees from other areas to join it.

Tsodhun monastery
Tsodhun monastery began preparations for the event early this year but
on 2 December, the county authorities sent out an order banning the
event saying it violated the ‘rules’ issued on August 16 concerning the
operation of religious bodies in the county. The Tibetan monks suspect
the “rule” had been formulated with the sole aim of banning the event at
Tsodhun monastery, the statement said adding that an unnamed government
official had even confirmed it. Security checkpoints had been built at
various areas around the monastery and there is a strict monitoring of
people and activities in the area, the statement further added.

On 16 December, around 20 officials including the deputy party secretary
of Ngaba Tibet Autonomous prefecture called a meeting of the monks at
Tsodhun monastery and said the religious congregation could not be held
under the “law”. They also warned the monastic administration of closure
of the monastery if it went ahead with the congregation. Monks of other
participating monasteries were also warned of arrest and detention if
they failed to comply with the order that consisted of 9 articles and 44
clauses.

Efforts by the monastic administration to clarify the matter and plead
the authorities proved futile. The senior monks of the monastery told
the visiting government officials that the event was purely religious
and assured that no political activities would be carried out but their
assurances failed to revert the authorities’ decision. The officials
accused Kirti Tsang monasteries of initiating major protests in the area
last year saying that the same event in 2007 was used by the monks to
plan the protests against the government in 2008. They even accused the
monks of coming under the influence of Kirti Rinpoche, a revered
Buddhist lama based here in exile whom they accused of instigating the
monks to protest against the government.
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