Peking to defrock Tibet's radical monks

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The Independent Online
Peking (Reuter) - China will defrock radical monks in Tibet in a crackdown that could last up to five years in an attempt to uproot the influence of the Dalai Lama in his Himalayan homeland, a Chinese propaganda official said yesterday.

"Lamas who are comparatively reactionary will be told to return to secular life," the official said in Tibet's capital, Lhasa. "Reorganisation of monasteries ... will consist mainly of ideological education ... It could continue for three to five years."

China has vowed to curb the influence of Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled god-king, in the region, saying religion must conform to socialism. "Religious culture ... not only hampers social development and economic development, but also stops people becoming more civilised," the official Tibet Daily said yesterday. The newspaper has also complained that monks in Tibet outnumbered students and more money was spent on monasteries than on Communist Party buildings.

"Monasteries will not be closed [but] work teams will enter and be stationed at monasteries," the propaganda official said.

For several months, China has been stationing "work teams" in Tibetan monasteries. The teams force monks into study sessions on becoming more "patriotic" and into signing pledges supporting Chinese authorities.

There were 1,787 temples in Tibet by early 1996, with 46,000 monks and nuns, the Tibet Daily said. The newspaper complained that young Tibetans were entering the clergy and living off alms instead of working. China has shut many temples in Tibet in recent years. "The spiritual realm is the main battlefield of our struggle against the Dalai Lama clique," the newspaper said. It claims that some temples have become the headquarters of separatist forces.