July 18, 2008

Tibet: China Blackout Monk Deaths

Sample ImageChina works to conceal various reports of a recent incident in Tibet claim two monks were killed by Chinese authority.

Below is an article published by The Times :

Two monks at a monastery in western China were killed in a clash with paramilitary police last weekend [12 July 2008], three Tibetan sources have told The Times.

The monks, at a monastery in western Sichuan province, which borders Tibet, were killed in a clash on July 12 [2008]. For monks of what are popularly known as the “red hat” sects, the date marks one of the most auspicious festivals of the year.

It is the first report of the lethal use of gunfire against Tibetan protesters demanding the return of the exiled Dalai Lama and independence since the fatal shootings on April 2 [2008] at the Tongkor monastery. The reports come despite a news blackout imposed by the Chinese authorities on reports of continuing deadly unrest in Tibetan parts of the country. A month before the Olympics, Beijing is determined to present a trouble-free image to the world.

Tibetan sources said that the trouble erupted when monks at the Gonchen monastery, one of the most prominent in the region and renowned as a centre for printing Buddhist sutras, or scriptures, attempted to mark a festival that fell on the tenth day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar.

The festival pays homage to the birthday of Padmasambhava, or Guru Rimpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Officials assigned to the monastery to keep an eye on the monks, especially since a deadly riot in Lhasa on March 12 [2008], refused to allow the men to hold their traditional dances.

What happened next may never be clear. Repeated calls to Dege, a town in a remote region on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, resulted in professions of ignorance of any incident on that date. Information barely trickles out from an area where People’s Liberation Army troops man roadblocks in almost every town and village.

A worker at a local hotel said: “The incident on July 12 [2008] was just an accident. Everything is safe here.” Another said: “The monasteries are open to visitors.” A government official put down the telephone when asked about the incident. Chinese officials installed in the monastery have refused to answer questions.

The Tibetan sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that officers from the paramilitary People’s Armed Police were deployed to halt any violence and shots were fired. One said: “Two monks were killed. These were my relatives.”

The Chinese Government is anxious to suppress any details of unrest in Tibetan areas, particularly reports of fatal violence, with less than a month to go before the Games.

There have been no reports of threats from restive monks in Tibet. However, a ban on flags from any non-participating countries is meant to stop activists from waving the “snow lion” of Tibet, associated with attempts to break away from China.

China will ban all entertainers from overseas, Hong Kong and Taiwan who have ever attended activities that “threaten national sovereignty”, the Government said yesterday after an outburst by the Icelandic singer Björk.

This year, she shouted: “Tibet! Tibet!” at a Shanghai concert after performing her song Declare Independence, which she has used to promote other independence movements.

Oldest sect

The Nyingma sect, also known as the Red Hat Sect, is the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Its name, meaning “ancient” or “old” in the Tibetan language, stems from its practice of Buddhism deeply rooted in the Tubo Kingdom of the 8th century.

Nyingma monks wear red hats, while the Gelug sect, formed in the 14th century, wear yellow ones. The Dalai Lama is the figurehead of the dominant Yellow Hat sect.

The Red Hat sect claims as its founder Padmasambhava, the man credited with building Tibet’s first monastery, Samye, in the late 8th century.

The sect advocates the study of Tantrism and its monks can marry. It is also active in India, Bhutan and Nepal.

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