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China’s Guantanamo Bay for Buddhist Monks of Kirti

All right-thinking persons of the world have spoken for a decade against the military  detention centre set up by the US in the Guantanamo Bay area of Cuba for detaining and interrogating all Al Qaeda suspects arrested in different parts of the world. There have been many views on the legitimacy of this centre. There have been many criticisms of its inhumanity.

2. Noone is talking of the new Guantanamo Bay type military detention centre which has reportedly been set up by the Chinese authorities under the supervision of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to interrogate and subject to so-called legal education an estimated 300 Buddhist monks— young and old.

3. They are not Al Qaeda suspects. They are not terrorism suspects. They are not ordinary criminals who have committed murder, rape or any other common law crime.

4. They are just religious people who have remained steadfast in their adherence to the Buddhist religion and in their support and loyalty to his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Their only crime was to refuse to eat in solidarity with a 16-year-old monk who committed self-immolation on March 16 last to protest against the Chinese colonisation of Tibet.He belonged to the famous Kirti monastery in the  Aba County in the Aba Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of the Sichuan province.

5. Since then, the Chinese authorities of the Ministry of Public Security have started a demonization campaign against 300 monks of the monastery who expressed their solidarity with the young monk.They have been accused of various petty crimes such as visiting prostitutes or inviting prostitutes into the monastery.

6. Initially, the Chinese authorities had them confined in the monastery, reduced their daily rations and forced them to attend so-called re-education classes. When they could not break the protest movement of the monks, they reportedly shifted them to a special military detention centre that they have set up in the Sichuan province.

7. At least so long as they were detained in the monastery itself, the world was getting some news of them, but since they were shifted to the military detention centre the flow of information has come down. International human rights activists have been treating these monks as missing persons and asking the Chinese for more information on them. They are demanding that human rights activists should be allowed to visit the detention centre and meet the monks. The Chinese haverefused to allow any humanitarian visit as provided for under international humanitarian laws.

8. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei claimed on June 8 that there had been no “enforced disappearances” at the Kirti monastery.He said the local authorities had taken some monks for “legal education”.

9. The same day, UN officials asked China for details of the whereabouts of the monks. “We encourage the authorities to undertake full investigations into the ongoing practice of enforced disappearances,” said a statement from the UN’s working group on enforced disappearances.

10. But in his weekly news conference, Mr Hong told journalists that no such thing was happening in the monastery. “The relevant local authorities are conducting legal education for the Kirti monastery monks in order to maintain religious order there. There was no question of forced disappearances,” he said. Mr Hong added that “relevant organisations” should “abandon bias and be objective and fair”.

11. In the meanwhile, there are indications that the protest movement by the monks has spread to theKardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) region, including Kardze town.No details are available.

12. The Chinese authorities have imposed such an effective control on the use of the Internet by the Tibetans that much information is not coming out through micro-blogging.While the rest of the world is benefiting from the relaxation of restrictions and the greater transparency as a result of the Jasmine Revolution sweeping across West Asia and Africa, the Chinese have denied these benefits to the Tibetans and their monks. They have sought to crush the Tibetan jasmine even before it can bloom.

13. It is time for the world to raise its voice and demand more information on the Chinese military detention centre and its Buddhist inmates. (13-6-11)

( The writer Mr B Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:

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