Speaking to Tibet Watch under the condition of anonymity, the latest source reported that the Tibetan monk and writer was last seen by a streetside vegetable vendor being forcibly taken into a black car. His arrest was reported earlier to have taken place on 2 December 2020.
The recent information clarified events that led up to his arrest. A workshop on sinicisation of Tibetan Buddhism had been conducted in Rebgong County during which Gendun raised questions to the facilitators. The same source reported Gendun having asked them, “… how does one sinicise Tibetan Buddhism?”, which resulted in a verbal altercation between them. After a few days, while he was on his way from Rongwo Monastery to Rebgong County to attend a dialectics session, he was suddenly arrested halfway through reaching there and driven away in a black car.
Gendun Lhundup has not been seen by anyone since then. Although his family was informed about his imminent trial during a phone call on 27 September 2021, no information about the trial or his whereabouts has been revealed to date.
Sinicisation of Tibetan Buddhism
The subject of Gendun’s forthright question – the sinicisation of Tibetan Buddhism – is a priority under Xi Jinping’s leadership. It was publicly declared as an official policy at the 19th Party Congress in 2017. This policy empowered the United Front Work Department, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) body, with further control over all religions under China’s rule, including Buddhism, making the CCP the overseer of all activities related to religion.
The implementation of this policy has now reached beyond the confines of the monastery and extended into academia, leading to discussions on the translation of Tibetan Buddhist texts into Mandarin Chinese. On the same day that Gendun’s family were called by the authorities, a landmark conference was held at Tsongon Buddhist University (Tib: མཚོ་སྔོན་ནང་བསྟན་སློབ་གྲྭ་ཆེན་མོ་) in Xining, a city located a couple of hours drive away from Rebgong County in Qinghai Province. At least 35 academic papers on the sinicisation of Tibetan Buddhism were presented, according to a report by the state media outlet Tibet.cn on 30 September. The three-day conference was attended by more than 500 religious leaders, including lamas and teachers from Rongwo Monastery, as well as government officials and academics from Tibetan and Chinese universities.
However, Gendun Lhundup, who has served at Rongwo Monastery as a teacher since 2000, was unseen and unheard of at the conference.
In October 2020, two months before his arrest, he published a book entitled Khorwa and urged fellow Tibetans to support it. He claimed that the book presents the truth as it is without bowing to orders.
Tibetan language websites shut down
A Tibetan language website that Gendun administered was also recently shut down amongst many others, reported Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy after former political prisoner and language advocate Tashi Wangchuk shared screenshots of them not being accessible on his Weibo account on 17 October 2021.
Gendun, also known by his pen name Lhamkok, is a prolific writer who has published numerous books since 1994. He is a highly revered intellectual who is known for his active involvement in the preservation and promotion of the Tibetan Language in the Rongwo Region. He was born in a nomadic family in 1974 in Rebgong County (Ch: Tongren), Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.
Information supplied by Tibet Watch