Lhasa (AsiaNews) – Chinese authorities in Tibet arrested five Buddhist monks on unknown charges. Three were later released, one is under house arrest and one is in prison. All five lived at the Karma monastery (Chamdo Prefecture), scene of past protests against Chinese rule.
The first arrests took place on 13 June, when police took into custody two monks identified as Kargyal and Tenzin.
Two more monks – who were identified by sources as Barma Kunkyab and Shedrub Dawa – were taken into custody in the afternoon and questioned in government offices in the town.
Eventually, two were released during the night. Later, one more was allowed to go. Only Kargyal remained in prison. No reason was given for the monks’ detention.
The next day, police returned to the monastery and questioned a fifth monk named Tashi Gyaltsen, who was taken to the town’s government centre. Here, he was severely beaten, but was later allowed to go to his family home under the condition of strict restrictions on his movements.
Although no official accusations were brought against the monks, it is likely that the arrests are part of a campaign of intimidation undertaken by the Chinese government against the monastery, which in recent years has been a centre for mobilisation against Communist repression in Tibet.
Increasingly, Beijing has used religion in order to tame the province, with serious restrictions on Tibetan Buddhism. This includes the obligation for living Buddhas to be recognised by the officially atheist state.
Meanwhile on Monday, China inaugurated a new land crossing into Tibet for Indian pilgrims who wish to visit one of the holiest sites in both Hinduism and Buddhism, state media reported.
The first group of pilgrims entered Tibet via a Himalayan pass at mid-morning on Monday for the 12-day trip to Mount Kailash, which will also take in a holy lake, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The move will further promote religious exchanges between the two countries, Xinhua noted.
Despite Mount Kailash’s significance, few Indian pilgrims ever visit the site, not only because of its remoteness but also because of difficulties in getting entry visas to China’s tightly controlled region of Tibet.