How China persecutes Tibetan monks and nuns

In Tibet, Buddhist nuns, monks and religious institutions are seen as a threat to the occupying Chinese state.

Monks and nuns have been beaten, jailed and tortured. Many have set themselves alight in protest against China's suppression of religious freedom and Tibetan culture, including 35-year-old Palden Choetso (below).

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has stated that the US government must continue to list China as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom.

The military gatecrash religious festivals and in July 2013 Chinese forces open fired on a Tibetan prayer gathering.

Treated like terrorists

The practices and traditional institutions of Buddhism, which is a central component of Tibetan life, are strictly curtailed.

In March 2010 the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, accused China of attempting to “deliberately annihilate Buddhism”.

Nunneries and monasteries are kept under the sort of tight surveillance normally reserved for terrorist groups. They are overseen by government-appointed ‘Democratic Management Groups’ and many have police stations situated nearby or even inside.

Monks, nuns and religious figures are often victims of human rights abuses and many are political prisoners, such as senior monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

'Re-education programmes'

TIBET_Nuns.jpgMonks and nuns are regularly subjected to ‘patriotic re-education programmes’ (PRE), for weeks at a time.

During these programmes, they are forced to read ‘patriotic’ literature denouncing the Dalai Lama.

Those who refuse to take part, or fail the programme, often have their rights to practice taken away.

The penalties for refusing to participate or failing the programme include fines, beatings and expulsion from a nunnery.

In May 2008 54 nuns were arrested and beaten after refusing to denounce the Dalai Lama.

Child nun arrested

In 1990 a 13-year-old nun, Ngawang Sangdrol (pictured below), participated in a peaceful protest and was held for nine months.

She was interrogated, severely beaten with iron water pipes and tortured with electric cattle prods. She was arrested again in 1992 for "counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement", and this time received a three-year sentence at Drapchi Prison – Tibet’s largest and most-feared jail.

Ngawang Sangdrol for nuns page.jpgA year later Ngawang Sangdrol and 13 other nuns had their sentences extended by six years for singing Tibetan nationalist songs in prison. Copies of the songs were smuggled out and heard around the world.

She became one of the highest profile Tibetan political prisoners as a result of her courage in standing up to the Chinese authorities. Her defiance resulted in solitary confinement, torture and three extensions to her sentence, which then totalled 21 years, the longest for any female political prisoner in Tibet and China at the time.

As a result of a prolonged international campaign, she was released from Drapchi Prison in October 2002.