A 30-year-old monk (name withheld) from Ewang monastery (popularly known as Chonang monastery) of Phuntsokling township under Lhatse county arrived in India in July 1997. He described how now even religious hermits are being forced to break vows and leave their retreats in order to attend Chinese “Re-education” sessions. The monk disclosed the circumstances by which he was compelled to leave his monastery.
“I first joined the monastery at the age of seven. Only 17 monks are authorised to register in my monastery and although at present there are 37 monks in the monastery, the extra 20 live in secrecy.
The authorities made an announcement that a work team would come to the monastery on April 22 1997, and they actually arrived on the night of April 25. They immediately convened a meeting and ordered the monks that, while the political re-education is underway, the over-all authority of the monastery will be undertaken by us. They said they planned to stay in the monastery for three months, and, if this did not bear fruit, this would be extended to six months and then to one year. They had decided to issue identity cards to individual monks of the monastery and threatened any one who did not comply with their regulations with expulsion.
As soon as the work team arrived the unregistered monks left the monastery for fear of being prosecuted or of risking the closure of the monastery, imposition of heavy fines and the possible harassment of other monks by the county authorities.
Despite repeated appeals by the monks not to disturb the religious hermits who spend years of solitary retreat in the hills, they too were ordered by the Chinese to attend the re-education sessions. Their are three categories of hermit, each with strict rules: some are not supposed to leave their hermit place; some are not supposed to speak out and some are not supposed to eat. All of these monks were forcibly evicted from their hermitages. The hermits were greatly upset by this and some are suffering mental disturbances, some even behave as if they are insane.
The work team comprised of officials from seven government departments. The work team asked us about the Dalai Lama and Avaloketeshwara (the God of Compassion) and said that we must directly oppose the Dalai Lama clique. I responded that I would never oppose His Holiness the Dalai Lama. To do so goes against my Buddhist belief and there would no longer be any point in putting on maroon robes.
They told me that I was the lone person working to split the motherland and after this one of my friends who understands Chinese language overheard Chinese officials saying that I would soon be arrested and would probably be executed or imprisoned. I therefore decided to leave the monastery and, by walking during the night and sleeping during the day, I escaped to India via Mount Kailash. On the way, due to lack of proper food, I was compelled to sell my religious artefacts such as my driphu (religious bell) and dringma (rosary).
Many other monks also left. Because our movements were controlled so strictly, the monks would pretend to be going on pilgrimage in order to get out of the monastery. At present in Chonang monastery there are said to be only three to four monks remaining.”