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China detains four Tibetans from Serthar Institute
TCHRD[Monday, June 02, 2003 10:30]
According to reliable sources, Public Security Bureau (PSB) Officers of Serthar County, Karze “Tibet Autonomous Prefecture” (“TAP”), Sichuan Province, took four Tibetans into custody on 27 May 2003. The four were recently summoned to Serthar County PSB Detention Centre in connection with their alleged involvement in a row over reconstruction at Serthar Buddhist Institute in 2002.

The detainees are Tamding, a monk in his mid-thirties, supervisor of the Finance Department within the Institute; Palzin, a monk and youngest among the four; Shongdu, a 40-year-old monk from Menyak County; and Ngodup, layman, a driver by occupation and originally from Tawu County. The only news available at the moment is that of their detention.

On 25 December 2002, Chinese officials tried to demolish reconstructed huts of the nun at the demolished site within the vicinity of Serthar Institute. Reportedly some nuns were still inside the huts when the officials began pulling down the huts, thereby causing injury to a few nuns. This led to a disagreement between the officials and the nuns and monks. The following day, a major row erupted between the two parties when a large number of officers from three main offices of Serthar County came to threaten the clergy with dire consequences for their action. Several clergy as well as officials were hurt in the midst of the scuffle. Reports also indicate that few vehicles were destroyed. On 27 December 2002, Chinese officers once again came to the Institute armed with weapons but nothing untoward happened that day.

Following this incident, the Chinese authorities demanded Serthar Institute to hand over the ringleader of the incident and further claimed compensation for the damaged vehicles. Should the Institute fail to obey their orders, the authorities threatened to arrest at least 200 monks and nuns. The Institute paid the reparations but couldn’t provide name of the ringleader since all the monks and nuns present at the incident were equally involved. In the course of the Chinese inspection, the four Tibetans were summoned and subsequently detained.

Serthar Buddhist Institute, established as a non-sectarian study centre, had approximately 8,800 religious practitioners including ordained and lay students of diverse nationalities. Since 1998, Chinese “work teams” had ordered for reduction in the monastic strength and adherence to the diktats of China’s “patriotic re- education” campaign. On 18 April 2001, the Chinese authorities enforced a limit of 1,400 residents, which necessitated the eviction of 7,000 students. Between June and July 2001, over 2000 dwellings within the institute were demolished though the Chinese officials have admitted to the demolition of 1,875 dwellings in their work report.

In June 2002, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, the founder and abbot of Serthar Buddhist Institute, was returned after being held incommunicado for a year in Chengdu. It is reported that the restrictions on the Institute in terms of monastic strength, code of conduct, frequency and content of religious teachings, are still in place though not to the extent as prior to July 2001.

For more information on Serthar Institute and its related information, link http://tchrd.org/press/2003/pr20030110.htmland http://tchrd.org/pubs/serthar.

Contact Person: Norzin Dolma/Tenzin Norgay
Telefax : 01892 223363/25874
Email : dsala@tchrd.org
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