By Tenzin Tsering
Dharamsala, July 23 - Seventeen Tibetan monks of Shag Rongpo monastery in Nagchu county have been 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 on July 17, Ngawang Tharpa, an exile Tibetan with contacts in Nagchu said.
According to information received by Ngawang, Chinese police had arrested the monastery’s head lama Dawa Rinpoche Khenrab Wangchuk Samten Tenpai Gyaltsen and four others, identified as Tashi Dhondup and three monks namely Ngawang Jangchup, Ngawang Thokmay and Dhungphug from Lhasa on May 17.
The three others were later released but Ngawang Thokmay, a 35 year old caretaker of the monastery, was held for alleged possession of banned pictures of the Dalai Lama whom Beijing reviles as a “splittist”. He was later sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
The authorities removed Dawa Rinpoche from all posts of the monastery. Dawa Rinpoche is currently held incommunicado at his residence near a place called Thoego La. A ruling was also been made that the aging Rinpoche, 75, would not have any association and contact with his monastery. The monks are also barred to visit him or even be near Thoego La.
Chinese authorities accuse Dawa Rinpoche of consulting the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama over the search for the 5th reincarnation of Rongpo Choeje.
Following Rinpoche's 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 forcing the monks to denounce the Dalai Lama and Dawa Rinpoche.
Meted out with serious threats involving imprisonment and expulsion, monks were forced to give their signatures or finger prints to express their non-allegiance to the Dalai Lama. Amid the mental trauma caused by the interrogation a monk named Jampa suffered severe breakdown and fell unconscious and another monk identified as the monastery’s disciplinarian Tashi Tensang was forced to leave the monastery due to depression.
The onslaught on their religious institution and faith has also led to the death of a senior monk Ngawang Gyatso, 70, by suicide on May 20. The authorities confiscated the suicide note he had left behind and warned the monks not to discuss the suicide and to resort to the official explanation of a “natural death”.
At present, the situation is extremely tense, said Tharpa, adding that the monastery is under constant surveillance by security forces. Chinese officials have reportedly said that among the 113 monasteries in the county, Rongpo monastery will continue to remain under their watchful eyes.