- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

SHIGATSE, Tibet (Agence France-Presse) — Monks at one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most revered monasteries are studying the political theories of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, which has appeared as a criterion for whether they can remain in the monastery.

“We have political study sessions four days a week from Tuesday,” said one young monk, although a middle-aged monk said he attended the sessions once a week.

When asked, most of the monks said they were required to study the “theory of the Three Represents,” the new political ideology of China’s ruling Communist Party.

The theory, attributed to Mr. Jiang, who remains chairman of the Central Military Commission despite giving up the presidency, aims to expand the representation of the party to include “advanced production forces, advanced cultural forces and the overall masses of Chinese people.”

“We mainly study religion at the monastery, but we also study some history and culture,” said Nien Drak, a lama, or high priest, and the political director of the Tashilhunpo monastery.

“Religion and culture are very closely tied, so we are researching this to understand” what constitute advanced cultural forces, he said.

Lama Nien Drak is the director of the Democratic Committee of Tashilhunpo, a mechanism for implementing political dimensions to the monastery.

Other monks widely doubted that the new ideology would offer greater political influence for Tibetan Buddhism, which has been part and parcel of China’s attempt to extend its influence in the region and strictly control the traditional religious aristocracy.

The British-based Free Tibet Movement has said that the “political re-education classes” help government officials weed out politically disloyal monks.

Lama Nien Drak said last Sunday that one of the former abbots of the monastery who was jailed in 1995 for aiding the exiled Dalai Lama would not be welcomed back.

“I don’t know where Chadrel Rinpoche is, he is no longer welcome here,” he said.

Chinese government officials said Chadrel Rinpoche was freed from prison in April last year and had gone to an unnamed monastery to meditate. Tibetan advocacy groups say he is under house arrest.

Chadrel Rinpoche was sentenced to six years in prison in 1995 for opposing Beijing’s selection of a boy identified as the reincarnated Panchen Lama and selecting another boy chosen by the Dalai Lama.

The Panchen Lama is Tibet’s second most revered spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama.

Beijing’s control over the selection of the Panchen Lama has led to accusations that it is trying to further exert its influence over Tibetan Buddhism at the expense of the Dalai Lama.

The 10th Panchen Lama died in 1989, and the abbot was in charge of the committee searching for the next incarnation.

His jailing was widely opposed by Tibetan advocacy groups and human rights organizations outside of China.

“Chadrel Rinpoche is a splittist [who seeks to separate Tibet from China], he violated the law … he also violated Buddhist law,” Lama Nien Drak said. “He should have first consulted with the central authorities that he was contacting the Dalai Lama; he should have gotten approval.”


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