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Religious oppression forces senior monk to commit suicide

July 29, 2010

By Phurbu Thinley
Phayul
July 27, 2010

Dharamsala, July 27 -- Tibet's government in
exile Tuesday said it received reliable
information confirming the suicide of a 70-year
old monk of Shag Rongpo monastery in the Nagchu
County of the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region” (TAR).

Just last week Ngawang Tharpa, an exile Tibetan
with contacts in Nagchu, told Phayul that the
70-year old monk named Ngawang Gyatso of the
monastery had committed suicide on May 20 after
failing to withstand growing religious oppression in the monastery.

According to information received by Tharpa, a
"suicide note" left by the deceased monk was
confiscated by Chinese authorities. The
authorities had even warned the monks not to
discuss about the suicide and told them to resort
to the official explanation of a "natural death."

The exile Tibetan government, in a post on its
official website, said the 70-year old monk was
forced to commit suicide due to "intolerable
depression caused by the Chinese government's
draconian measures to oppress Tibetan monks."

The report said the events leading to the monk's
suicide started with the stepping up of the
controversial "patriotic education" campaign in
the monastery and the subsequent arrest of the
monastery's head lama, Dawa Rinpoche, sometime back.

Following the widespread anti-China unrest in
2008, Chinese authorities in the ‘TAR' and other
non-TAR Tibetan areas have launched renewed and
intensified "Patriotic Education" campaign
covering almost every sections of society.

Under the campaign, Chinese "work team" officials
are sent to especially monastic institutes, which
are long considered hot-bed of political
dissidence, on a regular basis to "educate" monks
and nuns to be patriotic towards nation and one's
religion, and to oppose ‘splittist’ forces, which
include denouncing the revered Tibetan spiritual
leader the Dalai Lama, whom China reviles as a “splittist”.

Meted out with serious threats involving
imprisonment and expulsion from monasteries,
monks are compulsorily forced to give their
signatures or finger prints to express their non-allegiance to the Dalai Lama.

Chinese police had arrested Dawa Rinpoche and
four others, including three monks belonging to
the monastery, from Lhasa on May 17.

Following the arrest, around 50 Chinese "work
team" officials arrived at the monastery heavily
guarded by around 150 armed security personnel to
conduct "patriotic re-education" sessions. During
the sessions, the monks were ordered to
disassociate themselves from the Dawa Rinpoche, and to denounce the Dalai Lama.

Moreover, monks were forced to oppose His
Holiness the Dalai Lama and counter Rongpo
monastery's Lama Dawa as a coterie of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama," the Tibetan government said in its report.

Chinese authorities charged Dawa Rinpoche of
consulting the Dalai Lama over the search for the
5th reincarnation of Rongpo Choeje and removed
him from all posts of the monastery. A ruling was
also been made that the aging Rinpoche, 75, would
not have any association and contact with his monastery.

Rinpoche is currently said to be held
incommunicado at his residence near a place
called Thoego La. The monks are also barred to
visit him or even be near the place.

On July 17, another seventeen monks of Shag
Rongpo monastery were forced to leave their
monastery after Chinese authorities turned down
their repeated requests not be subjected to
patriotic re-education and denunciation of the Dalai Lama.

According to Tharpa, Chinese police last week
arrested two more monks of the monastery after
they confronted Chinese "work team" officials
during a meeting held at the monastery.

With constant surveillance by security forces,
Tharpa said, the situation in the monastery is
extremely tense and disturbing at the moment.
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