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Debate on a Dharamsala report regarding demonstrations in Karze (Ganzi), Kham

On Nov 10, 1999, a report about a demonstration in Karze (Ganzi) was issued by the Tibetan government-in- exile in Dharamsala and duly picked up by World Tibet Network News (WTN). In the report, Dharamsala linked the demonstration to a doctrinal dispute about worship of a deity called Dorje Shugden. (The Dalai Lama has advised Buddhists not to worship Dorje Shugden, and this has created controversy among Tibetan buddhists.) It seemed to me that Dharamsala was using the news from Karze as an opportunity to unfairly slam its opponents on the Shugden issue. I posted a comment to this effect on TIBET-L, a listserve. My posting generated some stormy debate, as reproduced below.

Eighty Tibetan demonstrators jailed in Tibet

Department of Information and International Relations, Dharamsala, Nov 10

Confirming reports of a demonstration on 31 October in the eastern Tibetan area of Karze, sources from Tibet said the Chinese security personnel have so far detained some 80 demonstrators. The demonstration, joined by 3,000 local Tibetans, was to demand the release of spiritual teacher Geshe Sonam Phuntsok, his attendant Shotruk and Agya Tsering of Karze Monastery, who had been arrested on 24 October.

The Chinese authorities claimed that the arrest of the three Karze monks was linked to bombings and independence poster campaigns, which have rocked the Karze area in recent months. However, sources in Tibet believe that the arrest was sparked off by Karze Monastery's refusal to back supporters of the spirit known as Dorje Shugden, whose worship is discouraged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The reports say that Karze Monastery snubbed an offer of gifts and invitation for dinner from a Shugden supporter, Thupten, who is a monk from Rabten Choeling Dharma Centre in Switzerland and frequent visitor to Karze. Thupten had apparently made offerings to the monks of Karze Monastery and invited the senior spiritual figures to a dinner. However, the Karze monks rejected his offers to show their displeasure with Rapten Choeling's refusal to follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advice against the worship of the Dorje Shugden spirit. The Switzerland-based dharma centre is one of the strongest supporters of Shugden worship.

Over the past two years, the Chinese authorities and Shugden supporters have backed each other's efforts in order to undermine the international image of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The authorities have also arrested a number of Shugden critics in Tibet.

 

Here is my original complaint to the 340-odd subscribers of TIBET-L:

Dear Tibet-L,

I have some good friends in Karze and Dargye Monastery, so I've been following recent developments there closely. Knowing the town and people as I do, I've had doubts about some details given in news reports, but kept silent. But the latest news bulletin (appended) is just over the top. The last paragraph implies that followers of Dorje Shugden, a deity whose worship has been banned by the Dalai Lama, are somehow in bed with Chinese authorities! This seems to me a blatant attempt by the Department of Information and International Relations in Dharamsala to discredit Shugden followers. I don't think that's appropriate content for a news release, and it casts doubt on all releases originating from this source. How can we find out what's really going on out there, if Dharamsala won't give it to us straight?

Pamela Logan

This comment of mine incited further postings, and things got a bit hot. See below for highlights:

Jane Ardley, Nov 12:

Re. Chinese authorities and Shugden supporters/communities - see World Tibet Network News 19 January 1999 "Chinese embassy first secretary visits supporters of Shugden in South India with a member of Shugden group".

The title of the news piece says it all!

Jane Ardley

Hi Jane, (this by private email, not on the listserve)

Thanks for the heads up on this. I have not been following the Shugden issue, so I'm really quite ignorant about it. Why on earth would Shugden followers want to ally themselves with the Chinese? Such an alliance would totally discredit themselves and their cause in the eyes of other Tibetans. Is there something I'm missing here?

Hmmmm.....I haven't checked it out, but.....did this report also originate from the "Department of Information and International Relations" in Dharamsala?

Pam

Note: I have since checked it out. The report is posted here, and it WAS issued by the same source as the other one, so cannot be considered independent corroborating evidence of a Shugden/China tie.

 

On Nov 12 a Tibetan named Tsering Dorji posted very critical comments. His remarks are excerpted in my response to him, which is given below:

Dear Tsering Dorji,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to comments being made by my detractors.

Dear Pamela Logan, From what I have read by you, the stuff I've heard and read of you seems to be fully justified and accurate. You are just another opportunist. Behaving the way you are, you are just securing your JOB in Tibet.
First of all, I am not paid anything for the work I do. My personal expenses (rent, etc) are paid using savings from my previous career as a PhD aerospace scientist. Because of this, the portion of Kham Aid's budget that goes for administrative overhead is kept at a very low 9%. The rest of our income goes directly to programs that help Tibetans. If you would like me to send an accountant's report with the exact breakdown, I would be happy to.

Second, If you or anybody else thinks this job of mine is so great that it is worth selling my soul for through lies about Tibet, then you can have the job and welcome. This job is really not so much fun. One other way I keep down overhead is that we do not hire expensive Land Cruisers for our field teams. We use public buses. Riding across the plateau in a public bus full of chain-smoking Chinese and Tibetans is something I can live without, yet I do it several times a year. There is a report on our website about bus-riding and it derives from rich personal experience. I am 40 years old, and frankly, I don't think I can keep on doing this much longer. If the Chinese toss me out of Tibet, or if the exile community reviles me to the point where I can no longer raise funds, then I will happily move on to something else.

Hey, if you know so much about what's going on in Tibet, tell me why are so many Tibetans from Tibet still fleeing into India. What Dharamsala knows about what's going on in Tibet is mainly from these Tibetans.
Obviously, there are many many problems in Tibet. Conditions there are really very bad, even when you just consider the economic standpoint. I know this very well, because I am exposed to the same conditions every time I go there. Nevertheless, some Tibetans are doing all right, and some are even wealthy. Monasteries are alive, Tibetan language books are published, and children do learn to read and write in Tibetan. So the situation is not without hope.

It's worth remembering that many parts of China are very poor as well, and suffer from the same lack of human rights. I've been chagrined to see that, in all the uproar over the World Bank population transfer program, no one has had even the tiniest word of compassion for the desperately poor Chinese who are supposed to be relocated. But I digress...

The point I want to make is that many Chinese are fleeing the country as well; even though they haven't got an "underground railroad" and a Dalai Lama waiting for them in Dharamsala. The ones who flee are the most poor, most oppressed people. Contented people do not flee! So what Dharamsala and the world hears from refugees is not representative.

I read or heard somewhere that you said that the problem in Tibet is not oppression by China but poverty. If that is so, who is to be blamed for this? Has China asked the World Bank billions of dollars for these poor Tibetans? Of course not! They want billions to move poor Chinese farmers into Tibet. Tell me if you know so much about Tibet, the population ratio of Tibetans and Chinese in Tibet.
Oppression and poverty are both problems. As a foreigner, there's not much I can do about the oppression. After all, many, many capable and dedicated people have been working on this for decades, and they haven't got anywhere. But poverty is a solvable problem. My work makes a real difference, and I can see it. Tibetans thank me for it, with tears in their eyes. So far, none have told me that my efforts would be better spent on political activism.
Thangka painting is all very fine. I am not impressed with your project "world's biggest thangka." (he is referring to this project, which is reported on the Kham Aid website and to the mailing list of Kham Aid supporters).
That wasn't my project. I had nothing to do with it. Some Tibetans decided to do it, they got a bank loan, and they went ahead. Most probably, the bank loan will never be paid back. So the money was "free." I've seen Tibetans get loans for monastery repair and painting, and for school improvements. Why Chinese banks lend money to organizations like these who have no collateral whatsoever is beyond me. It's symptomatic of imminent collapse of China's banking system. Perhaps you find that something to cheer about, but I don't think the results will be good for Tibetans.
What is the point? Does that mean there is religious freedom in Tibet?
There is limited religious freedom, so long as it does not cross the line and challenge Beijing's rule. For some people, it's enough. For others, it is not.
No, I think it is just for show and to boost your ego and fool the world, not to mention waste of money and time, which could have been put to better use. I am sure Tibetans in India can do a bigger and better Thnagka but for lack of money and a surfeit of common sense to know where their priority lay.
You can tell that to the Tibetans who led the giant thanka project! One might even go further, and ask why farmers and herdsmen give most of their wealth to monasteries, thus keeping themselves in poverty. This still goes on; in fact, it's epidemic.
Looks like you don't really know about the Shugden going ons.
You're right about that. The Shugden problem is way outside my purview. I don't understand the issue very well at all. It really has very little impact on my work, because most of the people I deal with are not Gelukpa. I will say that I think it's very unfortunate that Tibetans are divided over the Shugden issue, because it has harmed unity.
First of all, His Holiness the Dalai Lama never "banned" the worship of Shugden. The word "banned" is used by the Shugden supports. You used the word "banned" too. Are you a shugden follower or supporter? If not, why did you feel the need to bring this topic up? Are you an instrument of the Chinese Government - to spread conflict in the Tibetan community?
That accusation is ridiculous.
If you know anything or possess a bit of common sense, you'll know His Holiness can't ban anything. He is in exile for crying out loud! He doesn't have an army or police to force any ban on anything. He is our spiritual and political leader. It is the duty of a leader to lead us and advise us on all matters that we consider him our leader of. Do you know what the main motive of the worship of shuden? If you don't know ask the first Tibetan, you meet. And if that Tibetan tells you the truth, you will understand why His Holiness the Dalai Lama advised us, his followers, to cease worshiping shugden. Pamela, you are either too naive or another just spoke in the Chinese propaganda machine.
The question of whether the Dalai Lama can ban anything is peripheral, but if you want to hear my opinions on it, I suggest that we continue the discussion outside this public forum.

Respectfully,

Pamela Logan

Cynthia Yellowhair:

In response to Pamela Logan's response Please continue the discussion IN THE PUBLIC FORUM as it is the only way for some of us who are very interested in events to hear various opinions on those events. I agree that accusations and angry retorts will get nowhere but sometimes it leads to more productive debate and gets to the root of that anger.

Jeff Cobb:

The root of all anger is from the three poisons of ignorance, aggression, and desire. We are afraid of the unknown, and try to push away those things that we believe we do not want or need, or are threatening in some way.

Much of Pam's defense was right on target. And I think her reaction about the shugden-Communist Chinese connection was a little more knee-jerk than she might have been aware. The Tibetan diaspora always sees Communist Chinese collusion in anything that disrupts their unity, and sometimes there is evidence that that is the case, as noted in WTN quote on this issue from our friend in England.

Are you really 40, Pam!? Wouldn't have guessed it. I had you in the early 30's, tops.

Jeff Cobb

Michael She:

Dear Cynthia Yellowhair and other Tibetan friends,

I am really not sure about the Karze events, but I pay attentions to the Tsering Dorje's response. I also do not think that H.H. the Dalai Lama will ban any things.

We must be alert that there are many secret agents from the Communist China try to disunite the Tibetan and their friends.

As I am a Chinese, I really do not know if I should support the Tibetan Independence or the authentic autonomy of Tibet. However, I do not believe the Communist Government of China. From 1950 to the present, the Beijing Government still do not give the authentic autonomy to the Tibetan. Moreover, the Beijing Government always oppress the Tibetan. It cause the separatist activities more active.

In Hong Kong, it is obvious that the Hong Kong is become more Chinesization and not internationalization. I am disappointed. Particularly of the base of the rule of law is partially destroyed now.

Regards,

Michael She

 

Jack Churchward, who is head of an organization called Citizens Against Communist Chinese Propaganda:

Dear Pamela Logan,

In my own opinion, your work to educate Tibetans and provide for their welfare is praiseworthy. Some people that I have spoke with that have visited Kham agree wholeheartedly that education is an important aspect to the future of Tibet; independent, autonomous or occupied. In their mind, the work of educating Tibetans is more political than demonstrations (right now.)

On the other hand, our views of the Chinese government and the lengths that it will go are completely different.

I can't imagine why the security of world's most populous nation is threatened by an eight-year-old boy (his age when originally incarcerated) or is threatened by a 60year old mother of ten. The Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (the one recognized by the people that matter) might even be dead and I have heard that Rabeya Qa'dir (the wife of a friend and mother of ten) has even been tortured to make her admit to her 'crimes.'

The crackdown in Ghulja, Eastern Turkestan was covered by the media and they said 5 Chinese people killed. I have spoken to people who watched their friends and relatives get gunned down that day in February and watched helplessly while they sprayed the Uighurs with water in the freezing temperatures. 400 Uighurs died that day and the entire city is still sealed off over two years later. There is a Chinese government video that shows the demonstration, the Chinese victims and the summary execution of the 'perpetrators.'

These are the same people who have operated and maintained a propaganda theme park in Kissimmee, Florida for almost six years now. The pages that document their ownership is on the internet as well as the information presented by the park. As far as being a 'commercial' operation, the Far Eastern Economic Review last May wrote that Florida Splendid China was losing $9,000,000 a year (this equates to $25,000 a day.)

Maybe we will not agree on the depths of what the Chinese government will do to their own people as well as those under occupation and maybe you do not see it in the people that you work with, but I have seen enough to convince me.

Again, thanks for your efforts on behalf of the education and well-being of the Tibetan people.

Jack Churchward

PS Hatred of even the Chinese government is a waste of time. Recognizing the thugs for what they really are and acting accordingly is the proper course of action.

 

On Nov 14, WTN published a letter pointing out some errors in Dharamsala's original news item. The writer, Dipl.Ing. Helmut Gassner, used to be the German translation for His Holiness the Dalai Lama from 1979-1995. Although he does not identify himself as such, it appears that he is a Shugden supporter.

Dear friends,

please allow a few corrective statements to the report published by World Tibet Network News of Wednesday, November 10, 1999.

Eighty Tibetan demonstrators jailed in Tibet (DIIR

(Source His Holiness the Dalai Lama's exile government's Department of Information and International Relations, Dharamsala)

The article suggests that the recent arrest of Geshe Sonam Phuntsok in the eastern Tibetan area of Karze "was sparked off by Karze Monastery's refusal to back supports of the spirit known as Dorje Shugden, whose worship is discouraged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama", after "Karze Monastery snubbed an offer of gifts and invitation for dinner from a Shugden supporter, Thupten, who is a monk from Rabten Choeling Dharma Centre in Switzerland and frequent visitor to Karze."

Ven. Gen Thubten is a senior monk of Sera Je monastic university and resident teacher at the Rabten Choeling Dharma Center in Switzerland since 1983. Since 1987 he has visited his elder sister and relatives in the district of Karze THREE times, with this year's visit lasting from June 1st till August 30th.

During his stay, Ven. Gen Thubten participated in the inauguration of the renovated Dhargye monastery under Gyalten Rinpoche. At the occasion he offered the monastery six carpets and a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with His Holiness' two tutors, Kyabje Ling Rinpoche and Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche. The monastery gladly accepted the gifts.

During his stay, Ven. Gen Thubten did NOT visit Karze monastery, as falsely stated in the Dharamsala report. He did NOT make any offerings that were not accepted, as falsely stated in the report, and he did not NOT invite any "senior spiritual figures for dinner" from either monastery, as also falsely stated in the Dharamsala report.

This report has not only been publicly posted on World Tibet Network News, but is also being actively distributed to various addresses by the Geneva office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's exile government. It should be obvious, that this report is just one more effort of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's exile government to mar followers of Dorje Shugden as Chinese collaborators, taking blunt lies to unlimited extents.

Dipl.Ing. Helmut Gassner

Jeff Cobb:

Looks like your smoking gun, Pam.

]

November 14

Dear Tibet-L,

Regarding my original posting on the report of arrests in Karze, it WAS a knee-jerk response (as several of you have suggested) arising from frustration at the poor quality of reporting by Dharamsala on the incident. I'm sure those Tibetans on this list who have seen reports about trouble in your home towns back in Tibet, and have desperately wanted to know if friends and family were involved, can sympathize with my feelings. I just want to know the facts, and not have to wade through insinuations about unrelated issues.

Now that Shugden followers have published a rebuttal to the accusations made in the report, I feel emboldened to add my own criticisms. They arise because I know Karze town, and it's not large I would guess the population to be about 10,000 people, of whom maybe one-third are Chinese. So I am doubtful that 3,000 people would have been in the demonstration--after all, some Tibetan inhabitants are elderly or children, a larger number intimidated or apolitical, and a few actually pro-Chinese. Even if people came in from the surrounding countryside, 3,000 seems a bit high.

I'm even more skeptical of the figure of 20,000 given for the security forces--two for each Karze inhabitant! How could a demonstration last for thirty minutes in the face of such an overwhelming police presence? This figure defies common sense.

Lastly, whoever wrote the phrase "Chinese security forces" in the first report overlooked the fact that many policemen and soldiers stationed in the prefecture are ethnic Tibetan. I don't know the percentages, but of the four or five Karze County police officers I have met during trips there, ALL were Tibetan. (I don't know the officials in Karze County; but in neighboring Derge County, all top posts in the government, including the Communist Party Secretary, are held by Tibetans! I think that this is more the exception than the rule, but it does show that Tibetans are not completely powerless in their homeland.)

Now I don't mean to say that Dharamsala was trying to deliberately mislead anyone. They probably put out the information just as their informant gave it to them. But I know Tibetans in part of the world, and they exaggerate all the time, saying (for example) that a building built 300 years ago is "a thousand years old." That's a cultural trait, and it's something you learn to take into account when you work out there.

The Department of Information and International Relations in Dharamsala should know this, and they should question their informants carefully, but since they are not (and do not pretend to be) an objective news source,it's therefore incumbent on us listeners to apply the proper filters.

More broadly, I believe that conflict resolution--whether we're talking about China-Tibet or Dalai Lama-Shugden--necessarily requires that the two sides first acknowledge that middle ground exists between them, and then try to move into it.

Perhaps there is a way people can worship Dorje Shugden without causing harm.

Perhaps there is even a way for Tibet to survive and flourish under some form of Chinese rule.

My writings in this and other forums, which have come under heavy criticism, are aimed at giving cause for hope of finding middle ground between Dharamsala and Beijing. By dislodging the former from its pedestal, and showing glimmers of light (however faint) emanating from the latter, the two can be brought closer.

True it's not easy to find a path to the center when the two sides are so vehemently opposed.

But don't you think the results might be worth it?

Sincerely,

Pamela Logan

Andrew Wang:

Pamela,

Thank you for your comments. I concur with your conclusion. And, in fact I find that your finding with regard to reports on numbers is similar to mine. Without a proper filter system in place, it seems that certain numbers which are in favor of the cause, were printed outright while other figures unfavorable to the cause were immediately taken off or wantonly labeled as antagonistic propaganda. Therefore, in order to get to the truth, cool head must prevail, and objective, non-biased academic approach may prove to be the only meaningful way for truth finding, which will build a foundation for any parties concerned in finding their common ground for meaningful dialogues..., even negotiations between Daramsala and Beijing.

Andrew

Dana Robyn Chubb:

Pamela Logen wrote

"Perhaps there is a way people can worship Dorje Shugden without causing harm."

Please be informed that the very reason it is not practiced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is because it specifically does cause harm. Its practice goes against the non sectarian values that are imbued in a true Buddhist path, and therefore creates segregation among the schools. Furthermore it is specifically aimed at destroying the Nyingma school and teachings. Whereas the Nyingma and other schools have true integrity, being a true and pure path whose qualities are obvious to those who practice it, ( like the Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu, Barom Kagyu, etc.) the people who worship this energy have in mind political power and supremacy which creates a "self cherishing" which, form my point of view, is antithetical to the Buddhist path itself.

 

On Nov 21, 1999, WTN published the following revised report. It downsizes the demonstration from 3,000 to 300 participants, and seems to be much more carefully researched than previous publications on this topic. Could this be a response to criticism by me and Mr. Gassner? In any event, it's a welcome improvement.

Demonstration in Sichuan follows arrest of religious leader (TIN) (also posted here)

Tibet Information News Update
17 November 1999

Hundreds of Tibetans took to the streets in protest in Kandze (Chinese:
Ganzi) county town, Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), Sichuan
province two weeks ago following the arrest of a respected Buddhist teacher
and two other Tibetan monks. The arrests may have been linked to the
bombing of a small Tibetan medical clinic in a nearby village in early
October. At least 300 people are said to have joined the protest, which is
unprecedented in recent years and one of the largest in Tibetan areas since
the demonstrations in Lhasa in the late 1980s that led to the imposition of
martial law. Armed troops reportedly used tear-gas and guns to break up the
demonstration, and at least 50 Tibetans were detained.

The protest followed various acts of resistance by monks in the area to
hardline policies on religion and against the Dalai Lama, according to
unofficial reports from the region. Eleven monks from Dargye (known as
Dajin in Chinese) monastery, also in Kandze county, were reportedly
detained earlier this year after they painted pro-independence slogans on
the walls of the monastery. Some monasteries in the prefecture were also
said to have submitted a petition to the local authorities asserting their
right to continue studying Buddhism rather than attending Patriotic
Education sessions, according to an unconfirmed source. The region, which
is in the traditional Tibetan area of Kham, is known for being politically
restive.

The latest incident in Kandze reflects the loyalty among local people to
the teacher Sonam Phuntsog, a well-known scholar and Tibetan language
teacher in his forties who first studied as a monk at Dargye monastery.
Sonam Phuntsog's arrest on 24 October appears to be linked to the
authorities' concern over his influence in the area and over his apparent
loyalty to the Dalai Lama. Sonam Phuntsog, who is frequently referred to as
"Geshe" or "Gen" Sonam Phuntsog, although it is not clear whether he has
taken the official Geshe monastic exams, reportedly led prayers for the
Dalai Lama earlier this year. His assistant Sonam and another monk, former
political prisoner Agyal Tsering, were also arrested. The current
whereabouts of the three monks are not known.

One unofficial report indicates that they may be being blamed by the
authorities for a bombing that took place on 7 October in a village near
Kandze town. The bomb reportedly partially destroyed a small building that
was in the process of being converted into a medical clinic by a Tibetan
doctor who was said to be a devotee of the Shugden deity. The Dalai Lama
advised Tibetans not to worship the controversial "protector" deity in
1996. The motives of the bombing are not known, although there has
reportedly been some tension between devotees of Shugden in the area and
some Tibetans there who are opposed to worship of the deity.

Demonstrators dispersed by police

The demonstration in Kandze town began when a group of Tibetans gathered
outside the detention centre on 31 October to demand the release of the
three detainees. Other Tibetans joined them until a crowd of several
hundred built up outside the gates of the building. The Tibetans were
quickly dispersed by security personnel firing guns into the air; one
unofficial report states that tear-gas was also used. It is not known if
any Tibetans were injured or killed as a result of the police handling of
the demonstration.

Security in Kandze has intensified following the demonstration, with
military personnel being brought into the town from other areas of the
county and, according to an unofficial source, strict restrictions have
been imposed on people entering or leaving Kandze town, which has a
population of about 20,000. Monks and nuns are said to have been confined
to their compounds as security police continue their search for Tibetans
who participated in the protests.

The detention centre where the protests took place is one of the most
notorious in Kham. Political prisoners, including monks, have been held
there. In 1990, relatives of three Tibetans suspected of involvement in
dissident activities were tortured in an attempt to extract information
about the suspects. Two People's Armed Police units are stationed in the
town in addition to the Public Security Bureau offices and detention centre.

Detention of an important teacher

Sonam Phuntsog, who was born in Kandze county, joined Dargye monastery as a
novice monk at a young age. At the time of his arrest he had been teaching
more than a hundred monks at Dargye monastery for six years. In the 1960s,
Sonam Phuntsog taught village children how to read and write during a
period of employment as a cattle herder in communes set up by the Communist
Party. He helped with the renovation of some monasteries in the prefecture
after the Cultural Revolution, when liberalisation in Tibet from 1980
onwards led to a relaxation of religious restrictions. He also taught
Tibetan language to monks from more than 30 local monasteries belonging to
the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and wrote the histories of 13 of
the region=EDs monasteries, two of which have been published.

"He has become one of the most well-known and revered teachers in the
Kandze area, including among cadres working for the government," one
Tibetan, who has now left Sichuan, told TIN. "His growing popularity and
influence in the area of religion and nationality culture are seen to be
the main reasons for his sudden arrest." The relationship between Tibetan
Buddhism and nationality issues has been of growing concern to the
authorities since the relaxation of restrictions on religious practice in
the 1980s. It is perceived as one of the greatest threats to stability and
Party control in Tibetan areas.

Agyal Tsering, a monk in his forties also from Kandze county who was
arrested with Sonam Phuntsog, served a prison sentence of 18 months in the
early 1990s after he was suspected of involvement in distributing
pro-independence leaflets.

Agyal Tsering, a monk in his forties also from Kandze county who was
arrested with Sonam Phuntsog, served a prison sentence of 18 months in the
early 1990s after he was suspected of involvement in distributing
pro-independence leaflets.

Agyal Tsering, who also became a monk at an early age, spent two years in
Lhasa during the period of liberalisation in the early 1980s helping to
rebuild Ganden monastery, which had been completely destroyed during the
Cultural Revolution. Agyal Tsering studied debating at Labrang monastery in
Gansu province for 18 months and also spent time in Qinghai, where he
succeeded in raising funds to open a monastery, supported by the tenth
Panchen Lama. He visited Kandze in late 1989, and was arrested in March
1990 in Qinghai province on suspicion of involvement in political
activities. Agyal Tsering, who is also known as "Ajo", was beaten and
tortured during his detention in 1990 in order to extract a confession,
according to a reliable source.

The detention of Sonam Phuntsog and the subsequent demonstration mirrors
two incidents that took place in Lhasa in the late 1980s. On 1 October
1987, National Day of the People's Republic of China, a crowd of more than
2,000 Tibetans gathered outside the police station in the Barkor to demand
the release of political prisoners being held there. On 5 March 1988,
during a religious procession in the Barkor, monks started shouting for the
release of Yulu Dawa Tsering, a Buddhist philosopher and teacher and one of
Tibet=EDs most prominent political prisoners, arrested in 1987 for talking
about Tibetan independence to an Italian tourist. (Yulu Dawa Tsering was
released in November 1994). On both of these occasions the demonstrations
escalated and security forces responded by firing into the crowd, resulting
in fatalities. Many Tibetans were taken into detention during the aftermath
of these and other demonstrations during this period in Lhasa that
culminated in the declaration of Martial Law at midnight on 7 March 1989.

Resistance to the authorities in Kandze

The recent dissident activity in Kandze, an historically important centre
for Tibetan Buddhism, has taken place against a background of increasing
religious repression in Sichuan. The Patriotic Education campaign, which
appears to have reached monasteries in Kandze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture
in 1997, has led to increased restrictions on religious practice, attempts
to reduce the size of the area=EDs monasteries and a requirement for monks
and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama - the issue which has triggered the
most resistance. Dargye and nearby Kandze Gepheling monastery, located in
Kandze county town, are both Gelugpa monasteries known for their staunch
support of the Dalai Lama.

A Patriotic Education "work team" reportedly arrived at Dargye monastery
near Rongbatsa, about 20 km north-west of Kandze county town, in 1997.
Their arrival "caused serious disruption to the conduct of normal religious
studies and practices", according to a monk from Sichuan who is now in
exile. Dargye monastery, which has a history of more than 300 years, was
destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt during the 1980s. The
monastery, which housed 3,700 monks in the late 1950s, now has a population
of about 200 monks.

Monks and laypeople in the area have also been involved in pro-independence
protests. On 20 October 1990, Tsering Dorje, a businessman from Kandze, was
arrested in Lhasa with his friend, Butrug (also known as Lobsang Tenzin), a
monk from Kandze Gepheling monastery. They were sentenced to 12 and 14
years respectively for their involvement in the distribution of
pro-independence leaflets in Kandze town and raising the Tibetan flag at
the Degopo Lhakhang, a temple attached to Kandze Gepheling monastery.
Another friend, Lobsang Tashi was sentenced to four years imprisonment in
connection with the same incident. Tsering Dorje later escaped and fled to
India. Butrug is still believed to be serving his sentence in Maowen
prison. The Tibetan festival, Monlam Chenmo, has reportedly not been held
in Kandze since this incident.

In March 1996, two monks from Kandze monastery, Pasang Norbu and Norbu
Dradul, were arrested and subsequently sentenced to six and three years
respectively for putting up wall posters in the monastery declaring support
for the Dalai Lama=EDs choice of Panchen Lama. One unconfirmed report states
that two monks were arrested at Kandze Gepheling monastery earlier this
year and charged with handing out pro-independence leaflets, following a
security crackdown in the local area.

Kandze county is known for its political volatility. Although it was
initially chosen as the capital of the area, the remoteness and political
uncertainty of Kandze, in addition to its lack of modern facilities, meant
that Dartsedo (Kangding in Chinese) was selected as the prefectural seat
when Kandze TAP was established in 1955. Kandze was one of the strongholds
of Khampa resistance during the 1950s and there remains today a strong
security presence in and around the county town. According to the CD-Rom
Tibet Outside the TAR (TOTAR) by Steven Marshall and Susette Cooke, locals
in Kandze town believe that the town has been denied public assistance as
punishment for its political past and continued dissident activities.
"Kandze has paid for its hostility to the Chinese occupation by official
neglect and particularly repressive local security forces," state the
authors of TOTAR. "Its defiant cultural stance is the strongest, and only,
response it can make under current circumstances. Chinese immigration and
commercial development are infiltrating, resource exploitation continues,
but Tibetan resistance is stronger here than in many county towns, in a
tangible spirit as well as concrete manifestations in architecture, dress
and religious expression."

Kandze county accounts for 36% of political prisoners detained between 1987
and 1998 either originating from or resident in Kandze TAP, according to
the TIN publication "Hostile Elements: A Study of Political Imprisonment in
Tibet 1987-1999=EE. The other two of Kandze prefecture=EDs 18 counties that
account for a significant proportion of prisoners from the prefecture are
Serthar (22%) and Lithang (20%).

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