Crisis at Kirti Monastery intensifies: rare public statements by lama in exile
International Campaign for Tibet on April 13, 2011
As the crisis at Kirti monastery in Ngaba intensifies, exile lama Kirti Rinpoche has made rare public statements addressed to the Chinese authorities and the people of Ngaba, both published in full below.
Local people in Ngaba who had gathered at Kirti monastery in an attempt to prevent monks being taken away to a prison for ‘re-education’ remain in serious danger today as troops closed in and the lockdown at the monastery continues. Ngaba people had gathered at the monastery yesterday (April 12) after the authorities announced that monks between the ages of 18-40 would be taken away to be “re-educated”. Troops have been posted at hospitals in the county, creating further anxiety of a deepening crackdown.
According to Tibetans in exile in contact with people in the area, Ngaba people successfully blocked a number of military vehicles from entering the monastery yesterday (April 12), but police responded by severely beating many, and setting dogs on the crowd. In an atmosphere of escalating tension, police blocked traffic in Ngaba town, and some children attending schools in the town were prevented from returning home to outlying villages. (ICT report, Protests, tensions escalate in Ngaba following self-immolation of monk: Kirti monastery under lockdown).
Some local people slept on the road near the main gate of the monastery last night, according to the same sources in exile. A monk in exile who is in contact with people in Ngaba, a Tibetan area of Sichuan, said: “The authorities sent many police officers and a large number of soldiers into the area, and they conducted house to house investigation in Ngaba county and surrounding settlements such as Gabma Dewa (a pastoral community). They questioned each household about the number of household members, their present whereabouts, whether all the people present were members of that household, and so on.”
The same source said that as a result a number of Tibetans were detained, following other arrests and disappearances over the past two weeks, although full details are not known. A Tibetan in contact with others in the area said: “Everyone is terrified of being taken away by police in the middle of the night.” Reports that two women died of their injuries after being beaten by police could not immediately be confirmed.
In a statement to the Chinese authorities, Kirti Rinpoche, who is based in exile in Dharamsala, India, said today: “Armed troops in conjunction with government officials are currently enforcing a brutal clampdown on Kirti monastery in Ngaba, depriving it of all freedom and reducing it to desperation, and it is out of the suffering and frustration so caused that we seek to address you now.”
Kirti Rinpoche, Rongpo Choje Kirti Tulku, the lama of Kirti monastery in exile, also stated: “The present policy being implemented in minority regions belongs to the discredited old approach from the era of ‘class struggle’. It must be realised that the people cannot be controlled merely through economic growth and state propaganda. If it is not grasped that the era of ‘power comes from the barrel of a gun’ has passed, if those in power continue to misapprehend the changed situation and persist with that philosophy, far from achieving success, it will naturally lead only to a growing confrontation between rulers and ruled and continuing crisis, and it is with the broader interests of the Chinese state and people in mind that we appeal for preventive measures to be taken against this eventuality.”
In his statement to the people of Ngaba, Kirti Rinpoche appeals to Tibetans to continue to practice non-violence, even though “The ongoing repression of ordinary people, both monks and laity, driven by desperation into confrontation with the Chinese army is indeed hard to bear”. Following the initial crackdown in March/April 2008, Kirti monks in Tibet dictated a letter to fellow monks in exile, saying: “Too much for our hearts to hear about, and too much for our eyes to witness”. (ICT report, Tibet at a Turning Point)
There has been a deepening climate of fear in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan (the Tibetan area of Amdo), as a result of a worsening crackdown by the authorities following the self-immolation and death of a young monk called Phuntsog from Kirti monastery on March 16. Phuntsog chose this date to make his protest as it was the third anniversary of a major protest in Ngaba in 2008, when monks were joined by laypeople and schoolchildren in calling for a free Tibet, with pictures of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan flags on display. The protests were met by a violent crackdown by the authorities, in which at least ten Tibetans were shot dead. In subsequent raids on the monastery, photos of the Dalai Lama and other senior religious figures were stamped upon, torn or shot at by armed police, and monks were compelled to under ‘patriotic education.’
Over the past few days, Kirti has been under lockdown, with a new barbed wire fence and wall being built around the back of the monastic complex, and armed troops within the compound preventing monks from leaving and food from being delivered.
According to Kirti monks in exile, local people were concerned to hear reports that space had been made for hundreds of monks at a prison in the southern part of Ngaba prefecture. The term used by the authorities when taking monks away from their monastery for re-education in a detention facility is to ‘go for study.’
There are precedents to mass numbers of monks being taken into detention “for study” in Tibet – in April 2008, armed police raided Lhasa’s three main monasteries, Sera, Drepung and Ganden, already under lockdown following the beginning of major protests on March 10 that year, and took away hundreds of monks. At least 600 monks were taken from Drepung at dawn on April 25, 2008, some with black hoods over their heads. Many of them were taken to Golmud (Chinese: Ge’ermu) in Qinghai by train and held in a military prison where Tibetan teachers were required to carry out ‘rule of law education classes’. Often monks with medical conditions were not treated and others suffered severe anxiety and trauma due to the conditions of virtual imprisonment; their families and friends had no idea of their whereabouts, or even whether they had were still alive, for several months. A Drepung monk held in custody at Golmud at this time composed a song based on a popular folk song, including the following lyrics: “The weary gloom of anguish has set in./O Sun! Come forth with speed!/O Sun! We cannot wait much longer!/My karmic destiny shaped in past lives/Has rendered this youth a victim of circumstance./In the Three Seats of learning of the U-Tsang region [Drepung, Sera and Ganden/There’s no freedom of movement.” (ICT report, A Great Mountain Burned by Fire).
Statements by Kirti Rinpoche
The full text of both statements issued today by Kirti Rinpoche, translated into English from Tibetan by ICT, follow below.
Statement by the lama of Kirti monastery in exile to the people of Ngaba
Rongpo Choje Kirti Tulku
Losang Tendzin Jigme Yeshe Gyatso
Dear and beloved co-religionists in Ngaba prefecture and especially Ngaba county, with constant anxiety over the serious incidents taking place in the region, I offer condolences to the relatives and children of those killed or injured, and make prayers and invocations that the deceased may once again be reborn as humans with sound faculties and personal freedom able to find the Buddhist teachings, that the afflictions of the wounded will swiftly heal, that the imprisoned may soon get out of jail, and that the people as a whole, lay and monastic, may soon be released from the dreadful suffering of living in a state of terror.
At the same time, I have called upon the leaders of the Peoples Republic of China, and concerned officials in the Sichuan province, Ngaba prefecture and Ngaba county governments to put a stop to their unchecked intimidation, repression, duplicity and harassment in the region. The ongoing repression of ordinary people, both monks and laity, driven by desperation into confrontation with the Chinese army is indeed hard to bear, but I appeal to you consider that confrontation simply heaps even more suffering on ourselves, and to frame whatever action you take within the parameters of nonviolence.
For another confrontation in which more people are killed and wounded not to take place, I call on everyone to stick as much as they can to a peaceful approach by keeping their temper. That is my request, please consider it.
Holder of the title ‘Incarnate Lama of Kirti monastery’Noble land of India,
April 13, 2011
Statement to the leaders of the Peoples Republic of China, and concerned officials of the Sichuan province, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture and Ngaba county
Whether on the orders of the central government or not, armed troops in conjunction with government officials are currently enforcing a brutal clampdown on Kirti monastery in Ngaba, depriving it of all freedom and reducing it to desperation, and it is out of the suffering and frustration so caused that we seek to address you now.
The harassment of Kirti monastery and the community, both monastic and lay, with constant intimidation and a variety of false pretexts will not yield any positive results and we hope that it will be swiftly curtailed. The cause of the incidents arising there is the dissatisfaction of the people with the behaviour of the Chinese government, but the false representations of the situation made to the higher levels of government are only increasing the alienation between the people and government. Is this not a serious violation of the ‘Harmonious Society’ initiative of which President Hu Jintao has spoken?
The realisation of this initiative depends upon closer relations between the people and the government. Levelling serious political allegations at any opportunity, and meting out punishments like death sentences and life imprisonment, pretending to do so as loyal servants of the state while only heightening the public’s sense of grievance and driving them to desperation is a way to precipitate confrontation between the government and the people, and it must be realised that those civil and military officials responsible are not doing so out of duty to the Party or nation, but out of their own selfish and corrupt interests.
The senior leadership must find the courage to accept that constant repression born of suspicion and the attempt to enforce ‘Harmony’ with the power of the gun cannot address the real situation. Even animals respond positively to gentle treatment rather than brute force.
Just as no-one can change the course of the planets and stars, so the evolution of social attitudes across the world cannot be stopped, and if instead of thinking only of their own power, and by respecting the groundswell of public opinion, those in authority could find the courage to consider the public interest and the need for reform, and defuse the potential for conflict by peaceful means, it is in the nature of things that relations between people and government will grow closer and a ‘Harmonious Society’ can become a reality.
If the leaders are unable to trust the people and respond only with repression, the peoples’ sense of grievance will worsen, and lead only to confrontation, negating any prospect of ‘Harmony’, so we call for the cessation of such brutal methods nationwide, and especially in the ethnic minority regions. There are not enough prisons or soldiers in the land to maintain such a course indefinitely.
The present policy being implemented in minority regions belongs to the discredited old approach from the era of ‘class struggle’. It must be realised that the people cannot be controlled merely through economic growth and state propaganda.
If it is not grasped that the era of “Power comes from the barrel of a gun” has passed, if those in power continue to misapprehend the changed situation and persist with that philosophy, far from achieving success, it will naturally lead only to a growing confrontation between rulers and ruled and continuing crisis, and it is with the broader interests of the Chinese state and people in mind that we appeal for preventive measures to be taken against this eventuality.
In keeping with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s vision that the ‘Middle Way’ approach is the only way to ensure the nation’s long term stability, we appeal for the resumption of negotiations between Tibetan representatives and the central government without further delay.
The Lama of Kirti monastery in exile
April 13, 2011