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China trains Tibetan monks, nuns in counterespionage

Beijing concerned foreign influences fueling separatism

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing

ucanews.com reporter, Beijing

Updated: November 12, 2015 11:28 PM GMT
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China trains Tibetan monks, nuns in counterespionage

In this May 2013 photo, two monks sit on a hillside overlooking the Labrang monastery in China's Gansu province. China is training Tibetan monks and nuns in counterespionage. (Photo by Ed Jones/AFP)

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China has started training Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in counterespionage in the latest effort by the Communist Party to manage faithful deemed a threat to state power.

Twenty-two monks and nuns were this week instructed on a vague anti-spying law passed a year ago during a three-hour session led by security officials at Lamaling Temple in Nyingchi, close to the border with India.

"Nyingchi is of special importance to anti-espionage efforts because there are many military sites," Penpa Lhamo, deputy head of the contemporary studies institute at the Tibet Academy of Sciences, told the nationalistic tabloid Global Times.

The government has this month staged an anti-spying awareness drive across Tibet, where Beijing remains concerned Westerners may be gathering intelligence designed to fuel separatism.

The CIA started a secret program in Tibet in the late 1950s that included training guerillas to fight the communists, but funding to the exiled Tibetan government under the Dalai Lama reportedly ended in 1974.

Beijing considers monks and nuns the main agitators for independent Tibet and has in recent months stepped up control and persecution at monasteries and nunneries.

More than 100 nuns were last month expelled from living quarters later demolished in Driru County, said the London-based advocacy group Free Tibet.

"Other nuns that were handed over to family members by officials in nearby townships have been forbidden from carrying out religious practices, including praying and wearing their robes," the group reported.

All Buddhist monasteries in Tibet contain a police post and, over the past year, televisions provided by authorities that show state-approved channels only. Satellite systems that showed news and views from outside, including on the Dalai Lama, were reportedly destroyed as a part of a campaign across the Himalayan region.

Images of the Tibetan spiritual leader have again been banned in recent years, and instead authorities have insisted each monastery display pictures of party leaders and China's national flag.

Tibet's second-highest spiritual leader, the Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu, last month called for stricter enforcement of precepts among monks after a speech in March that appeared to go against the party line warning Tibetan Buddhism was disappearing.

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