Monastic education was one of the few avenues——if not the only avenue——open to Tibetan families for educating sons. Tenzin Delek, the oldest child and only son of a Lithang nomad family, entered “into the livelihood”113 of Lithang Gonchen monastery, the major center of learning in the area, in 1957.114 He was seven years old. Several years earlier, Chinese authorities, alarmed by the extent of spontaneous, but isolated resistance that had begun in and around Lithang, had moved to disarm local Tibetans and had instituted “struggle sessions” to denounce villagers opposed to economic and political reform.115 Only a year before Tenzin Delek became a monk, in 1956, Chinese troops bombarded Lithang monastery during a brutal battle in which tens of thousands of combatants lost their lives.116 In 1959, as the military campaign against Tibetan resisters peaked, the area descended into chaos. That year, after Tenzin Delek’s teacher died during another battle, he went to live with an elderly relative where he could informally and clandestinely continue his studies.
Ten of the sixteen years Tenzin Delek was to live with this relative, working on the family farm, coincided with the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a decade of tremendous and violent social upheaval. Among other proscriptions,
As one informant explained:
In the mid-1970’s, after Tenzin Delek’s relative died, he returned to his mother’s home. When he returned, even before it was really safe to do so, Tenzin Delek often brought home religious artifacts——statues, pictures, scriptures——that others had hidden in attempts to prevent their total destruction and that he had found unclaimed and still partially hidden. He showed them to interested villagers and explained their significance.118 His activism led to brief periods in local lockups——sometimes for ten days, sometimes for a month——and to repeated beatings. By the late 1970s, an opportunity to resume formal, if still clandestine, monastic studies with a prominent teacher became available in his home village.
By the late 1970s when it was no longer so dangerous, Tenzin Delek was using every available opportunity to press for the revival and enhancement of religious activity in the Lithang area. He was interested in re-opening and rebuilding monasteries and augmenting the ranks of monks.
Tenzin Delek’s first major opening came in 1979 during a short-lived period of relative liberalization, when a
A second initiative came in 1980 when the 10th Panchen Lama, regarded by Tibetans as the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, traveled to Labrang monastery120 in the course of his first visit to Tibetan areas in some eighteen years. He had been released three years earlier after having been held in a Chinese prison or in house arrest for fourteen years. Skeptics say the Chinese government permitted him to travel to Tibetan areas in order to assure the population that the Cultural Revolution had been wrong, and more importantly, with the Dalai Lama in exile in India, to bolster his own profile among Tibetans. At the time, with the full story of his relationship to the Chinese leadership authority still largely unknown, many thought of the Panchen Lama as a traitor to the Tibetan cause for having allegedly cooperated with Chinese authorities.121
Again, Tenzin Delek could not travel without permission, but again he managed a meeting. After describing how few monasteries were actually functioning, Tenzin Delek received assurances from the Panchen Lama that new regulations provided for the rebuilding of those destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and for rehabilitation of those Tibetans who had been mistreated. Armed with knowledge of the policy change, Tenzin Delek was able to pressure local officials for compliance, possibly at the price of their increased resentment. He repeatedly visited county officials in an attempt to have Lithang monastery re-opened. The first ceremonies there were held in the early 1980s; the monastery’s assembly hall was not completed until 1984.122
Almost a decade later, the Panchen Lama’s backing made it possible for Tenzin Delek to overcome local officials’ opposition to his plans to build a permanent structure at a site in Orthok. Kham Nalendra Thegchen Jangchub Choeling, as it was named by the Panchen Lama, or Orthok monastery as it was commonly called, was to become Tenzin Delek’s main monastery. The Panchen Lama’s intervention helped further monastic studies in the area and enhanced Tenzin Delek’s own growing reputation at home and in other Tibetan areas, leading in turn to his ability to speak out with some impunity. He became a role model for those interested in preserving Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture. Tenzin Delek’s ability to win the Panchen Lama to his cause was a humiliating defeat for area officials.
In 1982, the Chinese leadership made explicit a new policy which recognized that the inevitable dissolution of religion in
Tenzin Delek probably recognized the political nature of his activities. If not, it is probable that he would not have begun his monk recruitment initiative in secret.124 Working through a clandestine network of trusted acquaintances, he attracted some 175 prospective monks, who, once they were ordained, returned to their home areas to help revive Tibetan Buddhism. But by 1982, the secret operation was so widely known and the numbers it attracted so large, that it was no longer safe to continue either recruitment or ordinations.
In 1982, Tenzin Delek left Lithang without permission from government authorities for study at Drepung monastery in
Shortly after his return from
Orthok monastery was only the beginning. An ambitious building and renovation program begun in 1991 included a school and orphanage, an old-age facility, medical clinics, and seven branch monasteries. The social programs Tenzin Delek established were badly needed. His efforts made it possible for Tibetan children to receive some education which the minimal facilities in the area and the expense entailed had denied them. The medical facilities he established served the local community and nomads who were brought in by horseback. For the elderly who lacked proximity to medical facilities and for members of a monastic community who, without family, were badly in need of basic care, he provided a place to stay, blankets in winter, and a monthly allotment of meat, butter, and tsampa (roasted barley).
In addition, Tenzin Delek strove to turn Orthok monastery into a center of great learning and to make it into a facility that would expand the horizons of the local populace.126 At his urging and sometimes with his financial support, young monks furthered the goal by traveling to Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile, and to the great monasteries in Lhasa and other Tibetan communities to study Tibetan Buddhism, culture, medicine, arts, and music, to hone their skills, and to gain new experiences. Within the monastery, he established a
Tenzin Delek’s awareness of how quickly an ecologically balanced environment could deteriorate and how ruinous that would be for local inhabitants prompted him to promote sound conservation habits. He preached against mining practices that would pollute the areas’ rivers and ruin the soil, logging practices that would cause flooding and soil erosion, and indiscriminate hunting that might lead to species loss. Tenzin Delek’s views alarmed local authorities who favored unhindered economic growth and who are reported to have personally profited from mining, clear cutting, and poaching.127 As they learned, he was able to garner sufficient support to partially block the spread of deforestation in the Lithang/Nyagchu area.
Clear-cutting of old growth forests for profit was one of the most contentious environmental issues within a five-county region, which included Nyagchu and Lithang. According to former local activists, Chinese officials first became involved in “cutting trees like hairs on a head”128 in Nyagchu county in the early 1980s.129 Although it was necessary to build some roads and bridges to transport logs, thick stands of trees and a network of rivers made it relatively easy to cut and ship timber to central
According to those who formerly lived in the area, forest land was divided informally into three categories: one reserved for government use; one available to township130 officials for their personal use, such as building a house; and the third, the so-called public land, for use by local residents. By 1993, the local residents had come to find two official practices almost intolerable. One was the need to obtain permission to “build a house or get poles for a nomad tent.” Former residents reported they had to “bribe officials, giving them butter and meat.”131 The second complaint related to the concern of residents that local security and forestry department officials were working in concert to divert public land to the government sector. According to one Chinese environmental activist with whom Human Rights Watch spoke, county budgets in some areas in
The issue came to a head in the Nyagchu area on
In the week before November 9th, Tenzin Delek convened a meeting for community leaders and family representatives. He explained that as local leaders, they had an obligation not to ignore the problem. But, he continued, no matter their collective decision, he was prepared to take on the issue even if it meant going to prison. According to one report, he said:
For their part, township officials tried to forestall local action by convening the November 9th meeting to publicly announce that all public forest had been recategorized as forest reserved for government use or otherwise available for use of officials. County officials who happened to be in the immediate vicinity joined the meeting. Together they threatened trouble for all protesters.137 Later that day, despite the risks, but confident that local support might prove crucial, three monks from Orthok monastery chose to confront the township officials. A monk who was present recounted what happened:
When the three monks returned to Orthok monastery, they learned from local residentsthat the authorities were planning their arrests. These same local residents offered protection by guarding the three for several nights and, as the danger grew, sending them to the mountains to sleep. As one monk put it, “It was a very bad time.”
In spite of accusations that Tenzin Delek had been interfering in affairs that were prerogatives of the government, county and prefecture officials attempted to defuse the situation by insisting he use his prestige to calm the local populace.139 Prefecture officials agreed that once the situation was defused, they would deal with the forestry issue itself.
Tenzin Delek complied. At a meeting a week later, a Nyagchu county official, when questioned by Tenzin Delek, had to admit that he could not swear to the accuracy of other officials’ claims that there had been a change in government policy. According to those officials, the new policy had converted all forest originally reserved for the public’s use to forest which local governments could manage without public consultation. On the basis of the Nyagchu county official’s admission, Tenzin Delek went ahead and announced during alarge public prayer ceremony that the local populace would approve of the way the government-public land debate would be resolved. He added that no monks would be arrested; and he asked everyone to calm down.
When it quickly became clear that the prefecture officials who had asked for Tenzin Delek’s cooperation were not about to honor their pledge to restore public lands to the public, he and five others, monks and community representatives, took petitions, photographs, and letters to Sichuan provincial officials, explaining that if they could not receive redress there, they would go directly to the central government. The group then went to Beijing and complained to officials there. In the end, prefecture officials honored their promise to return to the public the lands that were rightfully theirs.
Although the controversy was resolved peacefully, several petitioners landed in serious trouble. As one informant involved in the effort explained:
For local officials, the entire incident resulted in a loss of face, a boost to Tenzin Delek’s prestige, and enhanced monastic influence. Local residents looked increasingly to Tenzin Delek to help solve problems; and local officials enjoyed less protection from their superiors further up the administrative hierarchy. As local officials were promoted, they took their resentments with them.
Tenzin Delek’s support for the Dalai Lama was well known. His followers say he counseled them that when it came to religious matters, they should obey and help the Dalai Lama and follow his path, even at the expense of their own lives.141 He preached that heeding the Dalai Lama’s words would lead to peace and prosperity and to unity among Tibetans.142 However, support for the Dalai Lama appears to have been confined to religious matters, which was legal in China and Tibetan areas until 1995 (or later in some areas). In this respect Tenzin Delek was not breaking any Chinese laws.
According to Tenzin Delek’s admirers, he also told people that, “they should hold up Tibetan culture and religion, they should not let it become degraded, they should try to revive it….If you don’t do it yourself——preserve your religion and culture——no one else is going to come and do that for you.”143
Tenzin Delek organized public events supporting the Dalai’s Lama’s religious status and celebrating his achievements. In the summer of 1993, for example, he held a long life prayer ceremony for the Dalai Lama. He used a large screen to display images relating to the Dalai Lama’s accomplishments.144 As described below, he was vocal in his support of the Dalai Lama’s admonition not to propitiate Dorje Shugden.
However, Tenzin Delek also told his audiences about the Dalai Lama’s 1989 Nobel Peace Price, his 1987 Five-Point Peace Plan, and his 1988 Strasbourg Proposal.145 Such remarks, political rather than religious, were probably illegal even in 1993 (although the relevant lawsóprohibiting political supportówere contrary to international human rights law). Even after the mid-1990s, when the Chinese state became increasingly involved in procedures for recognizing lamas, Tenzin Delek appears to have continued as before. He ignored the order against identifying incarnations without consulting China’s religious authorities.146 And he refused to stop his building program or, when asked for help, his involvement in the affairs of monasteries he did not head.
From 1979 until 1996, religious, as opposed to political, support for the Dalai Lama did not come under sustained attack in China. The change came as a result of the Third Forum, but was implemented gradually across Tibetan areas, from the west eastwards. By 1996, Tenzin Delek’s allegiance to the Dalai Lama and support for his policies, such as opposition to worship of the deity Dorje Shugden, were viewed not as matters of religious belief, but as political challenges to the central government.
In July 1994, at the Third National Forum on Work in Tibet, China’s leadership decided on a series of steps to curb the growth of religion in Tibet and to bring it more fully under the control of government and Party authorities. Much of the crackdown involved reductions in the number of monasteries and the number of monks and curbed the independence of senior monastic leaders. A year later, in May 1995, a dispute broke out over whether Chinese authorities or the Dalai Lama controlled selection of the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and, by implication, of all major religious leaders. Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama, has disappeared from view; Gyaltsen Norbu, the government’s choice, has been moved from Tashilhunpo, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama, to Beijing, where Chinese officials closely supervise his education.
In 1996, on the basis of a directive from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, “patriotic education” in the monasteries began in earnest. Monks were required to denounce the Dalai Lama, reject the Panchen Lama chosen by him, and write and sign formal statements acknowledging their acquiescence and supporting the official view that Tibet has always been an integral part of China.147 In addition, as part of the attempt to vet all religious personnel for patriotism, willingness to follow state religious policy, and distance from the “Dalai clique,” county and provincial officials and religious authorities consulted on pending reincarnations. Once decisions were taken, the Chinese government issued authorizations to those lamas it recognized. Neither Tenzin Delek nor the lamas he had recognized ever received official approval.
Taken together, the new policies had a major impact on the fortunes of Tenzin Delek, who seemingly paid little attention to attempts to limit his activities and influence. They had the effect of casting him in the role of a public political dissident, a “splittist,” a non-cooperator who acted as if he were a locally independent agent when it came to religious affairs. His non-compliance had the potential to derail the careers of local officials responsible for making certain that government directives were successfully implemented.
Officials from the eighteen counties that comprise the Kardze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture first announced application of the new policies in September 1995. Henceforth, there was to be no construction of monasteries or schools without explicit permission from the county involved; and to ensure compliance, surveillance of Tenzin Delek would be increased.148 The changes might have been partially in response to a strong statement he made at a prefectural meeting chastising local and central government officials for neglecting the public’s welfare. Among other issues, Tenzin Delek spoke on the lack of both modern and traditional Tibetan education in nomadic areas, the weakness of the local economy, and the populace’s lack of access to the area’s natural resources.149
In 1996, when Tenzin Delek was told that he could not recognize the Panchen Lama chosen by the Dalai Lama, he is reported to have said, “My feeling is that I believe the one chosen by the Dalai Lama. Also, I believe, the Tibetan people will also believe that, too. The one recognized by the Chinese government——I don’t know anything about it.”150 In short, Tenzin Delek, though firm in his defense of the Dalai Lama, was careful and ambiguous; he did not denounce the government’s candidate. That same year, when it was decreed that the Dalai Lama’s photo could not be displayed in monasteries and that monastic leaders would have to preach against the Dalai Lama’s “splittism,” Tenzin Delek refused to comply.
In 1996, Tenzin Delek was told that his practice of sending monks and students to monasteries in other Tibetan areas and in India for study was illegal. He was made responsible for bringing home all those who had not yet returned. According to one informant, Chinese authorities feared that as his students moved beyond the Lithang/Nyagchu area, Tenzin Delek’s reputation and influence would spread with them.151
In 1997, the Religious Affairs Bureau and the United Front Work Department informed Tenzin Delek in a letter addressing him as Rinpoche that he was to refrain from any involvement in political affairs. The document, entitled “The Six Articles,” detailed the ways in which Tenzin Delek had violated religious policy. By 2000, in a letter addressing him by his lay name, A-ngag Tashi (in Chinese pinyin A’an Zhaxi), he was accused of engaging in the very activities about which he had been warned. The letter went on to advise him that his status as a religious leader had been downgraded.152
Chinese authorities also used an esoteric religious dispute over Dorje Shugden, a Tibetan Buddhist protector deity, to attack Tenzin Delek, equating his active support for the Dalai Lama’s anti-Shugden stance with opposition to Chinese policy. Although the debate, which has waxed and waned for more than two decades, has no specific political aspect, support for the Dalai Lama on the issue seems to have been viewed as tantamount to “splittism.”
Dorje Shugden is considered a powerful magical being who can help propitiators acquire worldly goods and other powers and benefits. The deity is also seen by some as a protector of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition, the deity is regarded as being able to inflict harm on those who stop propitiating it or on those who belong to other sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
In 1976, the Dalai Lama stopped worshipping Shugden and began to teach that such worship could be harmful to individuals who offended the deity. He advised that Dorje Shugden was harmful to him and to the cause of Tibetan independence. He said that genuine deities think in terms of liberating people from suffering, not in terms of harming them. He saw it as his duty to bring the issue to the attention of Tibetan Buddhists, but to leave it to each individual to decide whether to follow his advice.
In 1996, the Dalai Lama went further, banning Shugden worship for those who wished to be his immediate followers or to take teaching from him. At that point, well-organized Shugden supporters in the Tibetan diaspora mounted active opposition to the Dalai Lama’s position, going so far as to accuse him of denying religious freedom to Shugden supporters. The seemingly narrow issue of whether Dorje Shugden was a beneficial or harmful deity masked other issues within and among the four sects that comprise Tibetan Buddhism. It also became a deeply divisive issue within the Gelugpa school, which the Dalai Lama leads, between ultra-conservatives who continued to worship the deity and a larger grouping which followed the Dalai Lama’s approach.
According to some accounts, Chinese government officials even promoted Shugden worship in Tibetan communities.153 Their goals, it appeared, were to dampen the Dalai Lama’s moral authority within the Tibetan and international communities and to use theological differences to exacerbate divisions within the Tibetan community.
Southern Kham is where support for the deity in the region has traditionally been strongest. Tenzin Delek joined the campaign against Shugden worship as early as 1979 when he brought evidence of the practice at Lithang Gonchen monastery to the attention of the 10th Panchen Lama. When Tenzin Delek returned from India in 1987, he again resisted pressure to join in Shugden worship and again preached against the practice to the general public, to monks at Lithang Gonchen monastery, and to village elders. He even announced he would not set foot in Lithang Gonchen monastery until the practice there stopped.154 His doing so reportedly resulted in some monks leaving Lithang Gonchen, the major religious facility in the area, and taking up residence at Orthok monastery.155 Such defections, coupled with others attributable to the availability of new permanent facilities at Orthok monastery and Tenzin Delek’s presence there, might have been regarded as evidence of his rising prominence and have led to anxiety over competition for resources.
The controversy continued to simmer and occasionally to flare. In 1999, several non-Shugden worshipping Lithang Gonchen monks were briefly detained.156 Two years later, not long before Tenzin Delek was arrested and after an influential lama at Lithang Gonchen monastery decided he would not longer propitiate the deity, Shugden worship there all but disappeared. Monks came from “everywhere” to participate in a ceremony marking the change.157
Chinese officials continue to call for Dorje Shugden worship. As noted at the outset of this report, they also claim that one or two of the bombings to which Tenzin Delek and Lobsang Dondrup allegedly confessed occurred in close proximity to a senior monk who had supported Shugden worship.158
Other highly respected Buddhist leaders in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture have suffered because of their support for the Dalai Lama as a religious figure and because of the respect and loyalty they engender from within local monastic and lay communities. Although the stories differ in the details, a common theme runs throughout, starting with concern on the part of Chinese authorities that these popular and charismatic figures make it difficult for the government to eliminate the veneration of the Dalai Lama and to dampen enthusiasm for religion. Chinese leaders fear that belief in Tibetan Buddhism, entwined as it is with Tibetan identity, will continue to support popular yearning for an independent Tibet.
Two cases of particular concern in Kardze are those of Sonam Phuntsog, serving out a five-year sentence for splittism, and the situation at Larung Gar, a monastic community formerly headed by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsog, which has been forced to drastically curtail its operations.
Tenzin Delek’s efforts on behalf of environmental conservation and religious positions, including his 1995 refusal to recognize the boy chosen by the Chinese as the 11th Panchen Lama, put local religious officials at risk. He made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to assure central religious authorities that all religious leaders in their districts publicly and privately supported the government’s stance and would insist that the monks they led acquiesce. In 1996, when the central government began its “patriotic education campaign” in the monasteries, thus increasing the pressure on those same local officials, Tenzin Delek still refused to comply. His further refusal to seek consultation with government authorities on other religious matters, such as recognition of incarnate lamas and establishment of new monasteries, also challenged their control and their prestige.
In 1997, the Kardze Prefecture Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) convened a meeting to discuss Tenzin Delek’s activities, finally issuing a document, “A’an Zhaxi Breaks the Law,” enumerating how Tenzin Delek had violated religious policy. It accused him of building new monasteries and schools without the requisite official permission, meddling in the work of other monasteries,159 arrogating to himself the title of Rinpoche, recognizing tulkus160 without consulting religious authorities, interfering with people’s right to believe as they choose by preaching against Dorje Shugden worship, and preaching harmful concepts.161
Therefore, the document stated, his title would no longer be recognized as legitimate and he would be required to cease engaging in activities associated with Rinpoche status, such as preaching, taking part in ceremonies and festivals at monasteries other than Jamyang Choekhorling, and furthering construction of new or existing monasteries. Those tulkus Tenzin Delek had already recognized would be stripped of legitimacy. His new status meant he would be required to obey the orders of the zhuren, the monastery head appointed by and responsible to the government’s Religious Affairs Bureau and the United Front Work Department.162 In addition, the Religious Affairs Bureau rescinded his membership in the Lithang County Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress163 and stripped him of his right to speak at Nyagchu county meetings.164
Officials from Kardze Prefecture and the Religious Affairs Bureau distributed the document in the form of a small book to government offices and the population at large in all eighteen counties. Some months later, the Religious Affairs Bureau and the United Front Work Department quietly began collecting the distributed copies.
On August 10, 1997, not long after the meeting, Tenzin Delek fled to the mountains, believing he was in imminent danger of arrest in part because local authorities had launched an investigation into the appearance of pro-independence leaflets.165 He left behind a tape recording, meant for Nyagchu county officials and delivered to its Religious Affairs Bureau, declaring: “I have been accused [of using religion to carry on political activities] but I’ve done nothing wrong. If I get arrested I see a problem [unrest] coming from the people, so I had better just go away for awhile.” He went on to ask the authorities to rectify the problem.166
A little more than a month later, after careful coordination between Tenzin Delek’s monasteries and the surrounding villages, local residents mounted an unprecedented protest, a march to Nyagchukha, the county seat. The day before the planned action, the organizers helped ensure its success by dispatching a student monk to surrounding villages to announce the time and place. Some 400-500 people, primarily farmers, willingly assumed the personal risks associated with such a public event. Security forces attempted, but failed, to intercept the protesters at the rendezvous site. Through verbal intimidation, the overwhelmed officers did manage to cut the number of participants in half. They called out the names of marchers, telling them “you have to behave”; “we know who you are”; we’re watching you”; “we will take care of you in a few days, we can do that.”167 Those who made it to Nyagchukha protested to county authorities that Tenzin Delek was the only one who cared about the people, that they had driven him away, and it was up to them to return him to the people.168 Except for some broken windows and a “few punches” thrown by Tibetans,169 the demonstration proceeded peacefully.
A demonstration of this kind is highly unusual in Tibetan areas. It reflected the stature which Tenzin Delek had achieved in the region and the importance of his projects to local inhabitants.
It took almost six months and appeals to provincial officials before there was agreement in writing that Tenzin Delek would not be harmed if he returned.170 However, he had to agree to some of the original terms: no political activities, no interference in other monasteries’ administrations, and no teachings at other monasteries.171
According to one informant, the crowd in Nyagchukha that greeted his return on January 27, 1998 was the largest ever to assemble there.172 One estimate suggested that tens of thousands took part.173 A prefecture official publicly laid out conditions under which Tenzin Delek could remain free. These included restrictions on his right to move about, to speak freely, and to engage in activities local authorities deemed political. One official reportedly told him:
To the first condition, Tenzin Delek replied obliquely:
Tenzin Delek complied with the order to stay close to Nyagchukha, “where he belonged.”176 He moved to Jamyang Choekhorling, a property he had purchased from a local family in 1991 and had gradually converted to a monastery. He was in residence there at the time of his April 2002 arrest. Although the reason why he was to move to Nyagchukha was never made clear, the assumption has been that it made surveillance much easier. Orthok is in a rural area a two- to three-hour drive from Nyagchukha. Jamyang Choekhorling is a five-minute walk from the center of town.
Although Tenzin Delek avoided the proscribed activities, he found other ways to promote his social ideas. He continued with his plans to establish schools in an area where educational facilities, particularly for nomads, were scarce or non-existent. The Geshe Lungpa school was established in early 1998. Later that year, Tenzin Delek founded an old-age home and a medical clinic.
In mid-June 2000, following a hiatus of more than two years, officials again summoned Tenzin Delek. It is unclear why they waited so long. According to some informants, local authorities did not want to risk another protest and anticipated that with Tenzin Delek’s activities curtailed, his support would wane.
In Nyagchukha, Tenzin Delek and two assistants met first with officials from the prefecture’s Religious Affairs Bureau and then with United Front Work Department cadres who castigated him for flouting travel restrictions. Tenzin Delek finally met alone with prefectural Public Security Bureau and State Security Bureau officials. During lengthy discussions, they pressured him to sign a document that included not only the “crimes” listed in the 1997 document but several others: inciting the local populace to protest the forestry department’s logging policy, and opposing China’s birth control policies.177 He was ordered to recognize the Chinese-chosen Panchen Lama, to ban photos of the Dalai Lama in his monasteries, and to preach against “Dalai splittists.” And he was accused of using the preservation of forest lands as a self-serving pretext for attacking the government and certain officials.178 At the threat of “inconveniencing” him, the Kardze security officers insisted he admit in writing to the offenses and agree to cease the listed practices.
Accounts of how Tenzin Delek responded differ. According to Wang Lixiong, an activist author and champion of Tenzin Delek’s cause, who interviewed Tenzin Delek in 2001, the later was forced to sign his confession in thirty places.179 An assistant who was with him that day said Tenzin Delek refused to protest against the Dalai Lama, recognize the Chinese-chosen Panchen Lama, or ban the photos.180 Still others reported that although Tenzin Delek would not agree to the recognition, he agreed not to propagate his personal belief in the child the Dalai Lama chose as the Panchen Lama. He reportedly also consented to refrain from talking about Shugden or birth control and abortion in public as the former had political implications and opposing abortion and birth control violated Chinese law. But, he said, he “regretted” that he was not free to speak out.181 As for building monasteries without permission, Tenzin Delek said he was only helping local groups after they were cleared to build and, he argued, it was up to the local populace to decide whether the tulkus he had recognized were genuine.
In mid-June 2000, a day or two after Tenzin Delek’s “confession,” prefectural officials at either the United Front Work Department or the Religious Affairs Bureau contacted him by telephone in the middle of the night, “requesting” he come alone to Dartsedo within the next two days. He was told that if anyone asked, he was to tell them he needed a medical checkup.182 Instead, on June 16, Tenzin Delek again took to the mountains. He explained his decision this way:
Tenzin Delek finished by asking:
In response, local leaders and close associates coordinated a massive and unusual petitioning effort184 that ultimately took supporters simultaneously to Beijing, Chengdu, Dartsedo, Nyagchukha, and several other places to speak with officials at the United Front Work Department, the Religious Affairs Bureau, and the Petitions Office. Their basic message was:
As Wang Lixiong wrote:
Several of the men who organized the petition drive faced extensive questioning about who wrote the petition, who initiated it, what motivated them; and whether there was an organization behind the effort.
In the end, officials in the in the Petitions Office in Beijing agreed that Tenzin Delek would not be in trouble if he returned.187 When he did, on December 20, 2000, he “put himself right under the eyelids of the authorities, hoping that this way, they would feel a little more relaxed.”188 As Wang Lixiong, who interviewed him in 2001 recognized, “He made the prefecture and county authorities lose face. Surely they would not be able to simply leave it at that. It was with this kind of doubt that I parted from him.”189
According to one informant, from the time Tenzin Delek returned home until his arrest, a matter of some fifteen months, he was effectively silenced and marginalized. He could not speak out on issues that lay or religious authorities considered political. His ability to meet with his followers was drastically curtailed. On the surface, it appeared as if there would be no further confrontations.
Until December 2000, Tenzin Delek had managed to stay intimately involved in the running of his seven branch monasteries. Several senior Orthok monks lived and worked in six of the seven. They taught, tended to administrative duties, and dealt with disciplinary issues. In collaboration with local leaders, they instructed community residents about environmental protection, the dangers of excessive drinking and criminal behavior, and the problems associated with immoderate hunting. Tenzin Delek visited each of the six monasteries at least twice a year and sent detailed instructions to the other.
However, his decreased ability to skirt the travel restrictions imposed by the Religious Affairs Bureau and the UFWD further hampered his oversight. His followers characterized the provision as being more like house arrest.190 Any trip out of Nyagchu county, or of more than a day’s duration within the county, required permission, as did any trip involving teachings before a large audience. Trips outside the county, for example, required the consent of three people: two government officials, one from Nyagchu and one from the other county involved, as well as the head of the monastery Tenzin Delek planned to visit. The same individuals determined how long the visit could last.
In the end, Tenzin Delek’s willingness to make it easier for officials to monitor his movements did little to ameliorate official concern. He was detained for the third and last time in April 2002, tried in November, and sentenced to death, suspended for two years, in December. His final appeal was heard on January 26, 2003.
113 The commonly used phrase means that necessities are supplied by the monastery.
114 The official name of the monastery is Lithang Jamchen Choekhorling.
115 Joy Blakeslee and Adhe Tapontsang, Ama Adhe, The Voice That Remembers, (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1997), pp. 42-83.
116 Tsering Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows, pp. 136-144, 165-170.
117 Human Rights Watch interview with KR, September 5, 2003.
118 Human Rights Watch interview with RP, October 13, 2003.
119 Human Rights Watch interview with FP, September 5, 2003. Officials “invite” those they wish to “reeducate” to attend a session, usually of several weeks duration, at a location removed from their usual places of residence. The educators attempt to persuade those attending that cooperating with government policies is in their own best interests.
120 Labrang monastery, located in Gansu province in the area known to Tibetans as Amdo, was completely rebuilt following its total destruction during the Cultural Revolution. Although it has become a major tourist attraction, its more lasting claim to prominence resides in the quality of the education, including the pursuit of advanced degrees, available there.
121 Robert Barnett, preface to A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama (London: Tibet Information Network ,1998), p. xiii.
122 At present, some 1,500-1,600 monks come to Lithang monastery for major ceremonies. Normally, some 100 live there. There are 113 monasteries attached to Lithang (including Orthok monastery). Each monk has two monasteries: one is the monastery at which he lives; the other is the monastery to which his is affiliated.
123 See Asia Watch (now Human Rights Watch/Asia), “Document 19: The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on the Religious Question During Our Country’s Socialist Period,” in Freedom of Religion in China (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992), pp. 33-45.
124 Human Rights Watch interview with KR, April 29, 2003.
125 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 27, 2003.
126 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 3, 2003.
127 Human Rights Watch interview with FP, February 2000.
128 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, April 10, 2003.
129 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, November 11, 2003.
130 A township refers to a group or cluster of villages or settlements in a rural area of which one is the administrative seat.
131 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, April 17, 2003.
132 Human Rights Watch interview, July 2003.
133 In September 1998, following disastrous floods in China, a new forestry conservation policy was announced by then Premier Zhu Rongji. See for example, “Chinese Premier Launches War Against Loggers Amid Flood,” Agence France Presse, September 14, 1998; “Chinese premier urges against deforestation on tour of Sichuan,” BBC Monitoring, September 23, 1999; “Major Events in China,” Inside China Mainland, November 1, 1998, which includes an excerpt from a September 5, 1998 article from Wen Wei Po.
134 The markers had been in place for a least a decade.
135 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, April 22, 2003.
136 Human Rights Watch interviews with CW, July 30 and November 11, 2003.
137 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, July 30, 2003.
139 The need to turn to monastic authority to quell the disturbance is an example of Emily Yeh’s point that “the state co-opts religious leaders to perform its dispute-settlement tasks, but in the very act of co-optation, weakens claims that the only legitimate authority in the PRC is secular and atheist.” Emily T. Yeh, “Tibetan Range Wars: Spatial Politics and Authority on the Grasslands of Amdo,” Development and Change, 34(3): 499-523 (2003).
140 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, April 10, 2003. Whether the 1982 Chinese constitution actually offers the protection asserted is unclear. Article 26 provides: “The state protects and improves the environment in which people live and the ecological environment…The state organizes and encourages afforestation and the protection of forests” (Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Foreign Language Press Beijing 1987, p. 22). In addition, several articles of the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Autonomy of Minority Nationality Regions” in effect at the time lend implicit support. Article 28 provides that “the organs of self government of national autonomous area shall manage and protect the natural resources of these areas;” and that “the organs…shall protect and develop grasslands and forests and organize and encourage the planting of tress and grass. Destruction of grasslands by any organization or individual by whatever means shall be prohibited.” Article 45 provides that “organs…shall protect and improve the living environment and ecological environment…” Article 62 provides that “While exploiting resources and undertaking construction in national autonomous areas, the state shall…pay proper attention to the productive pursuits and life of the minority nationalities there.”
141 Human Rights Watch interview with CW, April 17, 2003.
142 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 24, 2003.
143 Human Rights Watch interview with FP, July 29, 2003.
144 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 3, 2003.
145 The Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet was presented in an address to the U.S. House of Representatives Human Rights Subcommittee on September 21, 1987. The address charged China with “illegal occupation of Tibet” and reiterated that “Tibet was a fully independent state when the People’s Liberation Army invaded the country in 1949/50”…in “flagrant violation of international law.” It made clear that in speaking of Tibet, the Dalai Lama included the Tibet Autonomous Region, Kham, and Amdo. The five points included abandonment of China’s population transfer policy and negotiation on the future status of Tibet. The Strasbourg Proposal, an address by the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament on June 15, 1988, made certain modifications. It called for all of Tibet to “become a self-governing democratic political entity…in association with the People’s Republic of China.” Although it allowed that the PRC “could remain responsible for Tibet’s foreign policy,” it went on to say that the government of Tibet should have its own Foreign Affairs Bureau to “develop and maintain relations” related to “non-political activities.” The Dalai Lama said further that the “Government of Tibet will have the right to decide on all affairs relating to Tibet and the Tibetans.” Over the years the Chinese government has dismissed both the plan and the proposal as thinly veiled calls for Tibetan independence. As of September 4, 2003, the plan could be accessed at http:/www.tibet.com/Proposal/5point.html; the proposal was available at wysiwyg://291/http://www.tibetjustice.org/materials/tibet/tibet4/html.
146 After the 1980 relaxation, individual lamas, apparently without official involvement, quietly recognized reincarnate lamas. In 1995, a new Tibet Autonomous Region law required official input into the appointments procedure. It is not known if any regulations were promulgated either nationally or in Kardze or Sichuan.
147 For a full discussion of changes in religious policies see, Tibet Information Network and Human Rights Watch, Cutting Off the Serpent’s Head: Tightening Control in Tibet, 1994-1995 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996), pp. 25-34 and pp. 52-71. For examples of “patriotic education” programs see, Human Rights Watch, “Excerpts from Questions and Answers on the Patriotic Education Program in Monasteries” in China: State Control of Religion, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997) pp. 100-103; and Tibet Information Network, “A Brief Summary of Propaganda Materials for Patriotic Education in Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries” in Tibet Since 1950: Silence, Prison, or Exile (New York: Aperture Foundation, Inc. and Human Rights Watch, 2000), pp. 88-89.
148 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 3, 2003.
149 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, August 7, 2003.
150 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 27, 2003.
151 Ibid. Also Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 3, 2003.
152 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 3, 2003.
153 Isabel Hilton, “1. The Dalai Lama,” Independent, September 22, 1999; David Van Biema, “Monks vs. Monks,” Time Magazine, vol. 151, no. 18, May 11, 1998.
154 Human Rights Watch interviews with KR and ZB, September 5, 2003, and with HM, August 7, 2003.
155 Human Rights Watch interview with HM, August 7, 2003.
156 Human Rights Watch interview with KR, September 22, 2003.
157 Human Rights Watch interview with KR, December 14, 2002.
158 Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, April 4, 2003. See also Appendix II, “Interview with Kardze Court Judge.”
159 The accusation of meddling involved a monastery that was literally crumbing. When the lama there was terminally ill, he asked Tenzin Delek to assume his responsibilities. However, when another lama proposed rebuilding the monastery in a different location, it provoked sharp disagreement among monks and worshippers. Tenzin Delek was able to settle the argument amicably. Human Rights Watch interview with DQ, July 28, 2003.
160 The Chinese government has been attempting to control reincarnation recognition so as to build legitimacy for assuming the final authority on the selection of the Dalai Lama after the current reincarnation dies. See for example, “Chinese Regulations and Procedures on the Panchen Lama Reincarnation,” in Documents and Statements from Tibet, 1995, TIN Background Briefing Paper No.25, TIN, London, 29 December 1995, pp. 2-5; “Official on PRC Authority Over Tibetan Religion,” Agence France Presse, in FBIS, January 18, 2000; “China: Tibetans Welcome Reincarnated Seventh Living Buddha,” People’s Daily Online, January 31, 2000, copy on file at Human Rights Watch. When the position involved is less prestigious, the process usually involves consultation between lay officials and religious personages.
161 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, May 20, 2003.
162 The zhuren functions as a bridge, passing messages to monks and transmitting complaints. He is responsible for monastic compliance with policy changes and with implementation of new rules and regulations within the monastery for which he is responsible.
163 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.” This is the only article referencing Tenzin Delek’s membership in the local CPPCC. The CPPCC is part of China’s united front efforts. It is made up of non-Party members, often locally well-known, who willing support Party policies.
164 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 27, 2003.
165 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.”
166 The accusation referred to carrying on political activities under the cloak of religion. Human Rights Watch interviews with FP, July 29, 2003, and with EJ, November 11, 2003.
167 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, May 20, 2003.
168 Ibid. Also Human Rights Watch interview with FP, May 1, 2003.
169 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, November 11, 1003.
173 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, July 21, 2003.
174 Human Rights Watch interview with FP, May 1, 2003.
176 Human Rights Watch interviews with EJ, July 17, 2003, and with FP, August 2003.
177 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.”
178 Human Rights Watch interview with ZB, February 2000.
179 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.”
180 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 27, 2003.
181 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 8, 2003.
182 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 27, 2003; Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.”
183 See Appendix I, “Statement of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.”
184 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.” According to this account and others, the organizers obtained some 40,000 signatures through quiet persuasion at public events.
185 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, June 24, 2003.
186 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.” Wang has made at least ten trips into Tibetan areas. In 1998, he authored Sky Burial——The Fate of Tibet. After he tried to ensure an open trial for Tenzin Delek, he found it expedient to resign his position in the important Chinese NGO environmental organization Friends of Nature. It had become apparent should he remain its secretary, the group’s registration would be jeopardized. Wang’s works cannot be published in China.
187 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, May 20, 2003.
188 Wang Lixiong, “Ganzi Authorities’ Dispute with A’an Zhaxi.”
190 Human Rights Watch interview with EJ, July 21, 2003.