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China bans new monks in Tibetan monastery

Move 'aims to wipe out Buddhist clergy, rituals, and practices followed by Tibetans in the region'
Tibetan Buddhist monks from re-established monasteries in India walk towards Kalachakra Teaching Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India to attend Geshe Lharampa Degree Award Ceremony on Jan. 3.

Tibetan Buddhist monks from re-established monasteries in India walk towards Kalachakra Teaching Ground in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India to attend Geshe Lharampa Degree Award Ceremony on Jan. 3. (Photo: Tenjin Choejor/dalailama.com)

Published: January 05, 2024 03:02 AM GMT
Updated: January 05, 2024 03:18 AM GMT

Tibetans have expressed concerns after Chinese authorities banned the intake of new monks in a major Buddhist monastery amid ongoing suppression of religious and cultural freedom in the region, says a report.

For the first time, the Khyungbum Lura Monastery in Tibet’s Markham County has been banned from admitting new monks of all ages, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Jan. 3.

Earlier, the authorities had only prohibited the enrolment of minors  from joining the monasteries run by the Gelug, or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

An unnamed source from the region told RFA that the move was aimed at wiping out Buddhist clergy as well as the rituals and practices followed by Tibetans in the region.

“Without the regular intake of new monks, the move will lead to the eventual decline and closure of the monastery,” the source said.

This will leave “local Tibetans with no nearby places of worship during important religious ceremonies and nobody to [approach] to carry out important prayers and rituals, particularly on the death of loved ones,” the source added.The monastery currently has 80 monks, RFA reported citing sources in Tibet.

This is not first time the monks and monastery have faced the wrath of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In 1949, the monks strongly opposed China’s invasion and annexation of Tibet. Communist soldiers destroyed much of the monastery except for a lone stupa.

Local Tibetans and the remaining monks worked together to restore parts of the monastery after a liberalization program introduced in Tibet in the early 1980s.

Recently, the CCP’s influential United Front Work Department, which oversees religious, ethnic, and overseas affairs has intensified its efforts to enforce the “Regulations on Religious Affairs” law.

It stipulates that no religious activities can be held in schools or by educational bodies, and effectively bars Tibetans from enrolling in monasteries before they turn 18.

The Chinese authorities have also appointed a local administrator at Khyungbum Lura Monastery to oversee its operations which were traditionally run by senior monks in the monastery, RFA reported.

The monks have been allegedly threatened that the monastery will be shut down should they fail to comply with rules and regulations.

China has also enacted additional laws in the recent past to throttle religious activities.

In January 2021, China’s State Administration of Religious Affairs adopted the Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy regulation.

According to the regulation, all religious personnel are required to support President Xi Jinping’s plans for the “Sinicization of religion,” or “adaptation of religions to China’s socialist society” and work per the country’s national interest and ideology.

Sinicization is based on a political ideology that aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy, and supporting the leadership of the CCP.

In July 2018, Chinese authorities removed young monks under the age of 15 from Jowo Ganden Shedrub Palgyeling Monastery in Dzachuka, RFA reported.

The move came shortly after China’s State Council released an updated version of its ‘Regulations on Religious Affairs’ in November 2017.

Since then, some Tibetan monks between 11 to 15 years of age have been forced to give up their robes and leave their monasteries in various Tibetan-populated provinces, including Dhitsa, Jakhyung, and other monasteries in Qinghai province.

Tibetan activists and rights groups have accused Beijing of tightening its grip on Tibet with controversial and repressive acts to gradually diminish Tibetan culture, language, and religion in order to crush all form of dissent against Chinese rule in the region.

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