01/18/2008, 00.00
INDIA – TIBET – CINA
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Tibetan monks commit “suicide,” victims of pre-Olympic repression

by Nirmala Carvalho
Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, tells AsiaNews that the death of Gyaltsen Tsepa Lobsang and Yangpa Locho is full of unanswered questions, part of an increasingly nasty repression campaign waged by Beijing ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – The suicide over the last few months of two elderly and well-respected Tibetan monks “under mysterious circumstances must be seen against a background of increasing pressure by Chinese authorities on Tibetans. Before the Olympics the government is in fact trying to rid itself of all those social elements who might cause problems,” said Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Tenzin said that the two monks—Gyaltsen Tsepa Lobsang and Yangpa Locho, both 71-year-old—were found hanged in Tashilhunpo Monastery, the official seat of the Panchen Lama and scene of one of the most violent anti-Chinese demonstrations ever seen in Tibet.

According to some local lamas, the government and the monastery’s abbots had always humiliated and ostracised the two monks, guilty in their eyes of training those who instigated the mass anti-Chinese revolt of he mid-nineties, but especially blamed for recognising the 11th Panchen Lama, who was later seized by Communist authorities.

Furthermore, the monks (at least those still alive) who recognised the Panchen Lama are consulted on recognising the new Dalai Lama. Both suicide victims were thus on the list of those who would have searched for the reincarnation of the current Tibetan leader, seen by Beijing as a “secessionist.”

According to Tenzin, “the lack of religious freedom and the tight restrictions imposed by the Chinese government on how Tibetan Buddhism is practiced tend to drive many monks to desperation. Some end up take desperate measures. However, in this particular case we are not sure that the two monks actually took their own lives. They did not talk about it to anyone and did not leave any message.”

China’s attitude is “getting worse by the day as the Beijing Olympics approach. The central authorities have given strict instructions to Communist leaders in Tibet, who use violence and whatever means necessary to maintain security and impose the so-called social harmony. But this does nothing more than exacerbate the situation because if our monks can come so close to desperation, the crisis in Tibet’s population is not far off.”

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