Tibet Buddhists face new curbs

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The Chinese authorities are set to expel hundreds of "surplus" monks and nuns from Tibet's monasteries under new regulations published this month.

A report in the official Tibet Daily announced the crackdown on 10 March, the 36th anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The announcement also said that, in some areas, Tibet had more monks and nuns than high- school students, creating a "negative influence on economic and ethnic cultural development".

The Chinese government first announced a plan to "fix" the number of monks and nuns in November, but this is the first time it has publicly admitted a policy of expelling those it considers surplus to requirements. Implementation of such a policy is likely to exacerbate rising tensions before September's official celebrations of the thirtieth anniversary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, set up by the Chinese 14 years after its military takeover.

Human rights groups, citing unconfirmed reports of an unprecedented number of demonstrations in recent weeks, say the expulsion programme may already be underway in small, rural monasteries and nunneries. At the Sang-Ngag Khar monastery east of Lhasa, a government team arrived in November and announced that the number of monks must not exceed an imposed maximum. The following month there were reports of two demonstrations.

A document received by the Tibet Information Network in London (Tin) from another monastery near Lhasa said a work team had turned up, accompanied by the party secretary. "Even if a monk dies or gives up being a monk, he should not be replaced," the report said the monks were told.

It is not known how many monks and nuns might be affected. At one of the main monasteries, Sera, about 200 monks are registered but there are 500 attached to the temple. "The monks are waiting with apprehension whether they will be expelled today, tomorrow, or the day after," said another letter sent to Tin.