News and Views on Tibet

Tibetan monk self immolates amid widespread religious crackdown

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Image representational (photo/Kyoto Review)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, June 18: An unidentified Tibetan monk has reportedly self-immolated in front of a portrait of the exiled leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama to protest the widespread crackdown of Tibetan Buddhist institutions in the so called Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province, which is in the traditional Amdo region. Dharamshala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy report revealed that at the time of his death, “the monk was in retreat at his residence in Khagya Township, which comes under the jurisdiction of the prefectural capital of Tsoe City.”

The governor and deputy party secretary of Kanlho prefecture, Yang Wu has played a pivotal role in tightening control over monasteries and spiritual practice of monks in retreat. The exile sources cited by the research group said that the deceased monk’s family has been taken to Tsoe city where they were detained at an undisclosed location on the pretext of Covid-19 prevention measures.

“They are being detained on the pretext that they had possibly been infected with Covid after one of their relatives had returned from a Chinese town where he was employed as a casual worker,” the same source said.

“Going on a retreat is a profound Buddhist practice that helps practitioners to focus on the mind and deepen one’s spiritual practice free from distractions. That a mere monk is unable to engage safely in solitary spiritual retreat at his own home without the violent interferences of the Chinese state shows the extent and depth of religious repression in Tibet,” TCHRD researcher Nyiwoe said while condemning the Chinese government. The sources also noted that restrictions across the concerned prefecture has intensified to impede efforts to immediately identify the self-immolator.

The rights group further condemned the crackdown on the Tibetan religious community and urged for an immediate thorough investigation into the untimely death of the monk. “Both Yang Wu and Yu Chenghui, the Kanlho party secretary, must be investigated for their role in the circumstances leading to the death of the unidentified monk. We call on Chinese authorities to immediately put a halt to policies and practices that violate human rights, particularly the right to freedom of religion and belief,” the statement further read.  

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