Senior Buddhist scholar arrested as repression escalates in restive Tibetan county
[Source: TCHRD] DHARAMSALA, July 14: A senior Tibetan monk who is an accomplished Buddhist scholar was arbitrarily arrested and disappeared in May 2014 while he was giving a lecture on the “status of Tibetan language and nationality” (Tib. mi rigs dang skad yig ki gnas bab skor) to villagers of Shagchu (Ch: Xiaqu) Town[i] in the restive Diru (Ch: Biru) County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), in the traditional Tibetan province of Kham.
According to a reliable source, the Chinese police arrested the senior Buddhist scholar Tenzin Lhundrup on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama’s ‘soul day’, from Gom Gonsar Monastery at Lenchu Township in Diru County. It is still unknown on which Wednesday in May he was arrested. The source told TCHRD that at the time of his arrest, the senior Buddhist scholar was giving a lecture on the status of Tibetan language and nationality to the residents of Shagchu Town on the latter’s invitation.
The source added that on every Wednesday, which is celebrated in many parts of Tibet asLhakar or the ‘soul day’ of the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Lhundrup used to give Buddhist teachings to the local Tibetans, help arbitrate disputes, and advocate vegetarianism. He is known also for zealously advocating the need to preserve Tibetan identity. All of these initiatives had earned him much respect and admiration from the local Tibetans.
Tenzin Lhundrup had been under the radar of Chinese security forces ever since he spearheaded the local opposition to Chinese mining activities at the sacred Naglha Dzamba Mountain in the area last year.[ii] “He regularly gave speeches to the local Tibetans to protect the sacred mountain from Chinese miners, and once he publicly offered scarves to the members of a local committee set up to protect the mountain as mark of respect and appreciation for their resistance against mining,” said the source.
When the local Tibetans made inquiries as to the reasons for his arrest, the Chinese police had claimed that Lhundrup had been involved in many disturbances, including his participation in the protest against mining at Naglha Dzambha Mountain. The source told TCHRD that the security officers had surrounded the monastery and barged into the homes of monks looking for items deemed as ‘promoting separatism.’
There is no information on the status and whereabouts of Tenzin Lhundrub and the local authorities continue to maintain silence on the issue.
Another source from within Tibet said the senior Buddhist scholar’s arrest has triggered a massive crackdown in the area with the Diru County government issuing an official notification in June 2014. The notification has put severe restrictions on local Tibetans in the area including restrictions on freedom of movement, speech, and religion – religious professionals had been warned against “spreading rumours” and participating in Monlam Chenmo Prayer Festivals and so on.
An undated image of Tenzin Lhundrup acknowledging the members of Naglha Dzambha Mountain Protection Committee for resisting mining activities.
Failure to abide by these orders would entail dismissal from the monastery through the withdrawal of permits to enter monastery and cancellation of welfare provisions and rights.
The notification further warned that local Tibetans would be prohibited from harvesting the prized caterpillar fungus (Tib: Yartsa Gunbu) and their welfare rights cancelled if they were caught singing songs in praise of Tibetan independence, expressing dissent to the Chinese government policies, “leaking state secrets to the outside world”, or listening to news broadcast from exile Tibetan media.
At the moment the situation in Diru remains extremely tense. “The Chinese authorities have cut all communication lines and forced Tibetan students of Diru studying in other regions of Tibet to return to their home. The situation has become very tense and dangerous,” said the source.
Tenzin Lhundrup is a resident of Geney Village in Shagchu Town and was ordained a monk at a young age at Gom Gonsar Monastery. He is an accomplished Buddhist scholar, and had extensively studied Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, literature and culture; for three years since 2002 he underwent meditation retreat at Drikung Thil Monastery, the main seat of the Drikung Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism which is located some 120-km to the north-east of Lhasa. After his return to Gom Gonsar – his home monastery, he served as the head of the prayer sessions and taught Buddhist philosophy to the monks.