Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tuesday led a mass prayer service for the victims of China’s ongoing violent crackdown on the monks of Kirti Monastery and local Tibetans in Ngaba County (Ch: Aba Xian) in Tibet’s north-eastern Amdo province.
This is the first major prayer service after Chinese security forces launched a major raid into the kirti monastery three days ago, leading to the death of two elderly Tibetans and forceful arrest and detention of over 300 monks from the monastery.
The prayer gathering, organised by various Tibetan organisations, lasted for over two hours this morning, and was attended by hundreds and thousands of Tibetan exiles, including Buddhist monks and nuns, and non-Tibetan sympathisers.
Senior leaders of the Tibet’s government in exile, including the Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, and representatives of NGOs and institutions also attended the prayer gathering.
Here in Dharamsala and in different locations around the world Tibetans will on Tuesday stage day-long hunger strike and hold candle light vigil later in the evening to highlight the situation facing monks and local Tibetan in Ngaba region.
“Arrests and severe clampdown are still continuing. The current security clampdown by the Chinese government is aimed to annihilate the very existence of Kirti Monastery, which will be a great loss not only to the monks of the monastery, but to all the Tibetans and Buddhist community worldwide,” said a statement released by the Kirti Jeypa Monastery based here in Dharamsala.
The monks of Kirti Monastery, which is situated in the southern part of Amdo, one of the three traditional provinces of Tibet, have been firmly resisting against China’s state-mandated “re-education” campaign. The monastery is among the biggest and one of the most prominent centres of learning in the region.
China has long-considered religion as a key element of Tibetan identity and monastic institutions as hotbed of political dissidence.
Reports have surfaced in recent years of monks succumbing to suicides in the aftermath of political indoctrination classes and in the face of growing religious oppression in the monasteries.
The situation around Kirti Monastery has remained extremely tense following the death its monk Phuntsok, who set himself ablaze on March 16 to protest against Chinese rule.
Following the incident, China stepped up security in the region and its security forces cordoned off the Kirti Monastery, putting some 2500 monks of the monastery at risk of starvation.
Despite repeated appeals to defuse the situation amicably, China has denied any unrest, saying last week that everything was “normal” at the famed monastery.
Phuntsok’s self-immolation last month was not the first case by a monk of Kirti monastery.
In February 2009, Tapey, a monk in his mid-twenties from the same monastery, set himself on fire to protest against a ban by Chinese government prohibiting the monks of the monastery from observing a major Tibetan new year prayer festival.
Reports at the time confirmed that Tapey was shot at by Chinese police after he set himself alight. He, however, survived and was later taken to police custody. But his whereabouts remain unknown as no one has seen or heard about him since then.