“China: End Crackdown on Tibetan Monasteries”

HRW has crunched some numbers and come to the conclusion that Chinese security policies exacerbate ethnic tensions. This isn’t really a surprise, but maybe hearing it for the ten thousandth time will get some reaction out of Beijing?

Since the protests of 2008 in the region, the Chinese government has imposed drastic restrictions on Tibetan monasteries in the Aba prefecture of Sichuan province and other parts of the Tibetan plateau. These measures include brutal security raids, arbitrary detentions of monks, increased surveillance within monasteries, and a permanent police presence inside monasteries to monitor religious activities.

Human Rights Watch has documented a dramatic increase in security expenditure by the Chinese government in the Aba region since 2002, although there were no reported incidents of significant unrest until 2008. These findings suggest that the increase in government spending on security has contributed to provocative policing techniques such as monastery blockades and the mass detentions of monks that have repeatedly contributed to local discontent and unrest.

No credible evidence has emerged so far to suggest that the monastery authorities or its other members were involved in the actions of these individual and former monks. Yet the security response to each of these incidents has been to punish Kirti monastery and the local community through collective punishment, police raids, roadblocks, and show of force by the People’s Armed Police (PAP).

The self-immolations coincide with a significant increase in spending on security in the area, according to government statistics examined by Human Rights Watch. Those show a dramatic increase in public security spending in Tibetan areas of Sichuan province, specifically Aba and Ganzi prefectures, since at least 2002, with a more rapid increase after 2006. In 2007, a new “anti-terrorist” unit was established in Aba to “strike hard” against “violent terrorist activities.” By 2009, per capita annual spending on public security, which covers the civilian police force, the People’s Armed Police, and costs associated with running the local courts and prisons, in Aba was five times the average spent per person on public security in non-Tibetan prefectures in Sichuan, and over twice the amount spent for security in the provincial capital, Chengdu.

Incidents similar to the ones in Kirti have taken place in at least one other monastery. In August, Nyitso monastery, in Ganzi prefecture (“Garze” in Tibetan), Dawu county (“Tawu” in Tibetan), was reportedly cut off by troops for several days after monks declined to take part in an annual prayer festival. A single monk set himself on fire, reportedly in protest against the blockade of the monastery.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet, violence

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