02/19/2009, 00.00
TIBET - CHINA
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Government asks Tibetan monks to defend Chinese state

by Nirmala Carvalho
The Buddhist Association of China, an instrument of the Party, approves norms ordering Tibetan Buddhists to give their primary allegiance to the state. But the initiative to boycott New Year's is gaining momentum. The poet Tenzin Tsundue explains Tibetan nonviolence.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) - Beijing is increasing its control over Tibetan monks, and is asking them to defend the interests of the Chinese state. But Tibetan writer and poet Tenzin Tsundue explains to AsiaNews that the upcoming Tibetan New Year (Losar) will be an opportunity for a peaceful protest against the repression taking place.

The Buddhist Association of China, an organ of the state that manages Buddhist questions, has issued new rules for Tibetan monks. Now, according to the state news agency Xinhua, they must in the first place "safeguard social stability, the socialist legal system and fundamental interests of the people." Moreover, they must avoid separatist activities and illegal demonstrations that impair social order.

Experts observe that under the new rules, it will be easier to find accusations to use to imprison and punish the monks, even for a simple nonviolent protest.

The new rules also call upon the monks and nuns to "see clearly" that "the 14th Dalai Lama is the ringleader of the separatist political association which seeks ‘Tibet independence', a loyal tool of anti-China western forces, the very root that causes social unrest in Tibet and the biggest obstacle for Tibetan Buddhism to build up its order."

March will mark the 50th year since the Dalai Lama went into exile, and also the anniversary of the public protests that exploded on March 14, 2008, and were violently repressed. Meanwhile, there has been a sharp increase in security forces in Tibet and the nearby provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan, where there are significant Tibetan enclaves. Many monks are still being jailed or transferred, and are subjected to "patriotic education." A number of famous monasteries are almost empty.

Losar begins on February 25, and Tibetans are sending e-mails and SMS messages urging people not to participate in the festivities, because there is nothing to celebrate under the current repression. In Lithang, after about 20 people were arrested for holding a demonstration to call for boycotting Losar, on February 17 the government ordered the closing of shops and hotels for three days. Yesterday, it was still a ghost city, with the people closed up in their homes.

Tenzin Tsundue explains to AsiaNews that "the 'No Losar' is intended to be the biggest nonviolent resistance in history, with the highest level of participation. This silent resistance is gaining momentum worldwide."

In commenting on the arrests of those calling for a boycott of Losar, he says that "the Chinese government is getting paranoid about the increasing united and silent form of protest by the Tibetans and they are reacting in the only way they know to quell a protest: arresting and torturing.

"As a writer and poet, I know that the Chinese fear above all the inspiration the Tibetans are imbibing from our own culture and this is most worrisome. Because for years, the Chinese government has essentially been conducting a cultural genocide intended to disrupt traditional Tibetan customs and religions. In our nonviolent resistance against the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the strength of our cultural resistance is having a unifying effect among the Tibetans and the supporters all over the world . . . For China, state paranoia is making its control mechanism react childishly on every single incident as they fear and see that the freedom movement in Tibet is inspiring and spreading its messages across China for various other human aspirations like labor rights, land reforms, free press, religious rights . . . The 2008 people's uprising proved that Tibet wants freedom."

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