The following is a verbatim translation of a Tibetan text written by two Sethar monks who escaped to Nepal on 30th September 2001. The monks are urging Tibetan supporters and friends to take action against the religious persecution in Tibet. Here they offer powerful visual images of Sethar destruction as proofÖ.
In 2000 the drive to downsize Sethar institution has been intensified. Officials from Kandze and Sethar work team took notes of the names of the monks, from which areas of Tibet they came, their names, and other details have been carefully documented. Besides work team officials from Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunan purposely came to Lanranga to identify the respective clergy belonging to their jurisdiction and there after informing Sethar county. According to Chinese official statistics in 2000 there were 8880 regular students residents at the higher Buddhism learning Center, out of which the Chinese authorities would permit only 400 nuns and 1000 monks to remain. Highly alarmed by this dreadful order, the clergyís petition and requests to the various authorities all went in vain. On top of that, a stern official warning issued stating that any other clergy staying other than the limited number allowed would be considered illegal.
At the beginning of May 2001, lead by the work team officials of the United Front of Sichuan province, other concerned provinces and county officials totaling about 2000 personnel were camped at Larong Jamthok which is about 3 miles from Sethar Laranga. The officials have summoned the respective clergy belonging to their province or county, and carefully persuaded, advised and cajoled them to return to wherever they hailed from. Those who pleaded not to send away as they have no place and home to return were brandished with guns in an apparent sense of threatening. About 2000 armed army from Sichuan coincidentally reached the site to threaten any dissent voice through their military exercise by flexing their mighty armed muscles. The monks and nuns were also warned of the dire consequence that their respective families would face in terms of a cash fine if they disobeyed the order. The clergy were cautioned that any kind of dissent to the official order would tantamount to make the seven member of standing committee and Khenpo Jigmay guilty. That threat was big enough to drive away 1,500 monks and more than 3000 nuns. Sometimes groups of nuns numbering to as much as 100 and as less as 10 would sneak way in the evening. The majority of the nuns who do not have a family, a home, or a nunnery to which to return would aimlessly wander in unknown places with minimal food for subsistence. The difficulty of forceful separation from ones soul and spiritual Guru and this cruel imposition on the freedom of ones spiritual practices to which their life is dedicated have tremendous psychological impact on their tender heart. About 200 of the nuns who were heartbroken due to this situation were now hospitalized and under medical treatment in various hospitals in Drako, Sethar, and Bharkam, etc. Among those, several of them have committed suicide and around 30 of them passed away from such illnesses as a direct result of forceful expulsion from their lifelong spiritual hermitage.
The seven member standing committee was repeatedly asked to write documents justifying the demolitions, and it was with their request that the Chinese officials were carrying out the operation. Besides, they should propagate the same to the public and students. Yet the committee did not yield to this unreasonable pressure. The Chinese officials also assigned the committee to at least destroy two of the woody resident huts. They could not agree to these sinful acts of demolishing the very huts of their students and the monastic institute.
On 28th of June 2000, eight living quarters of international scholar groups were dismembered. From 1st July to 8th July, about 300 nunsí living quarters were wrecked. The Chinese agreed to have ravished a total of 1875 living huts for the monks and nuns, but the actual number would have been more. The huts were brought down even with the household things, and small shrine stored inside. There were cases of workers taking away or stealing belongings after destroying the woody structures. Even patient and elderly people were dragged out of the living rooms and the cruel dismantling of the roof even when the residents were inside below is nothing but an actual reality. The hapless nuns petition to high up authorities to restrain from such unbelievable act of barbarism. Any such opinions expressed were taken as against the authority of the government. During the actual destructive operation, taking photos and filming would be illegal, besides, people are not allowed to move freely while the operation is in action.
A total of 3 restaurants and 5 shops that have been running were brought to the ground. Not a single student from the International Scholar group have been allowed, nor a single student from various provinces in China. From the monksí living quarters, 1000 of the huts were pinpointed and numbered and the rest of more than 1500 were planned to annihilate. The entire religious congregation of Sethar was stopped this year. Khenpo Jigmayís teachings have also been banned. Everyday lives have been disrupted; even for those clergy remained at Sethar. No classes or teachings were taking place. They were highly concerned of Khenpo Jigmayís deteriorating health. All those left behind were in a state of great shock, to be separated from their friends, and were in constant fear; anxiety and sadness of not knowing what is in store for them now.
Khenpo Jigmay Phuntsokís Status
Since the beginning of patriotic re-education at the Sethar Laranga in 1998, Khenpo was under virtual house arrest. The Chinese authorities announced imposition and restriction on his movement to abroad and to other provinces within Tibet. Khenpoís regular teachings and holding of any religious congregation was also stopped even at Sethar Namten Lobling since 25th May 2001. Obviously, these stifling situations have exacerbated Khenpoís poor health that has been suffering from a malady relating to mental pressure. The glaring fact that his devoted disciples and the monastic institute for which he dedicated his life long time were facing such devilish wrath of the Chinese government would not only make his health deteriorate even more. As the Chinese authorities did not permit any leave for him, Khenpo was left for several months at Laranga unattended of any medical care. After a considerable success of their mission of driving away the clergy and destroying their living quarters at the beginning of August of 2001, then Khenpo was allowed to see the doctor of his choice at the hospital. There was a Tibetan doctor named Rigzin there, who has treated Khenpo and his niece, Jetsuese Mapang, in the past, which was very effective. This time the Chinese officials did not allow Khenpo to see Doctor Rigzin. (This information was based on a telephone conversation with Khenpo Tsultrim and those at the hospital) Under this circumstance all the Khenpoís followers and students were gravely concerned for Khenpoís current health, and they have little trust in the Chinese who are in charge of his medical treatment.
The Chinese governmentís normal propagating of the rampant freedom of religion in Tibet is nothing but a colossal lie. There is a big contrast of what they preach and do in real action. The prevailing deliberate destruction and forceful expulsions of Buddhist clergy of a great Buddhist learning center, better known as Sethar Namten Lobling, is first hand evidence to the world that religious freedom does not exist in Chinese policy in Tibet. The very existence of a race and its identity is dependent on good governance by help of mental maturity and spiritual development. The nurturing of a healthy and matured mind requires good schooling and training. Such facilities are very rare and devoid all over Tibet. The inhumane demolition of the existence of higher learning centers is a big disaster and unfathomable loss to the entire Tibetan race and to the world at large. Sethar Namten Lobling has been a premier higher Buddhism learning center, incomparable to its great quality and quantity by any other. The Chinese communists have already calculated the eventual impact of such manufacturing of highly learned intellectuals and hence under the pretext of a policy and discipline reviewing, Chinese launched blitz on Sethar.
With our hands folded in respect, we appeal to all the international Tibetan support groups and to those loving people who advocate justice and peace, to voice very strongly against this crime against humanity in Tibet.
Names Confidentially Held,
Two Sethar monks who arrived in Nepal on 30 September 2001