Fears for future of Kirti monastery; UN seeks answers

  • Paramilitary occupation of Kirti monastery continues
  • Monks flee due to climate of fear and rigorous patriotic education campaign
  • China claims detained monks undergoing “legal education” following UN complaint

According to new information received by ICT, monks have been leaving Kirti monastery in recent months due to the presence of troops blockading the monastery, the risks of disappearance, torture and detention due to the security crackdown combined with a patriotic education campaign that is making religious practice difficult or impossible. According to some reports, as many as several hundred monks may have left Kirti, and at least 300 have been taken away by the authorities for what the Chinese government is characterizing as “legal education.” A number of monks have also been expelled from the monastery, with their rooms closed down, according to exile sources in contact with people in the area.

A Tibetan from the eastern Tibetan area of Amdo in contact with monks from the area said: “Kirti monastery has long been one of the largest and most influential monasteries in the region, and Tibetans there have a strong sense of their national identity. Tibetans fear that Chinese authorities are now seeking to weaken Kirti significantly through this systematic campaign against it and against the monks.”

Exiled Kirti monks who are in contact with local people in Ngaba said: “These days there are two big army tents pitched outside the north wall of the monastery, two each on either side of the east and west entrances to the complex, three more at the great stupa west of the monastery, and four at the main (south) entrance of the complex. The monastery’s new 25 room meeting hall inside the complex is occupied by soldiers and police, and all vacant dormitory buildings in the rest of the compound are also being occupied by soldiers, police and officials.”

In a significant indication that the Chinese government feels unrestrained by relevant articles of international law which protect the right of liberty and security of a person, it rebuffed a strongly worded appeal by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances issued in Geneva on June 8 “to disclose the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been subject to enforced disappearances in China, including a group of Tibetan monks whose fate or whereabouts still remain unknown.” (ICT report, UN Human Rights Experts to China: Disclose the fate and whereabouts of Kirti Monks).

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei responding to a foreign journalist’s question in Beijing on June 9 said there had been no “enforced disappearances” at Kirti monastery. He said local authorities had taken some monks for “legal education.” (BBC, China rebuffs UN plea over ‘disappeared’ Tibetan monks).

The statement on the Kirti monks was the second public statement by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) in two months. On April 8, 2011, in a press statement the group recalled unresolved cases of disappearances pending with the Chinese authorities, including the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. The UN WGEID said: “A case going back 16 years is that concerning Gedhun Choekyi Nyima known as the 11th Panchen Lama. He disappeared in 1995 when he was six years old. While the Chinese authorities have admitted taking him, they have continually refused to divulge any information about him or his whereabouts, making his case an enforced disappearance. A number of human rights mechanisms including the UN Committee Against Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as well as Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have all called for his whereabouts to be revealed, to no avail.”

The crackdown underway in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (the Tibetan area of Amdo) has been deepening since the self-immolation of a 20-year old Kirti monk called Phuntsog on March 16 (ICT report, Dramatic new footage reveals Ngaba crackdown, refutes Chinese claims of “normal life”).

Two further detentions in Ngaba have been reported by exiled Kirti monks. Kirti monk Gempel, age 23, son of Urgyen Tsering of pastoral division no.2 under Me’uruma township, Ngaba, and A Kyakya, age 30, of Me’uruma division no.1 have been detained, but the date of detention and current whereabouts are not known. A Kyakya was suspected of leading the protests that followed the self-immolation incident on March 16. (ICT report, Protests, tensions escalate in Ngaba following self-immolation of monk: Kirti monastery under lockdown and an ICT list of Tibetans detained in Ngaba since March 16).

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