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Tibetan monks debate Buddhist philosophy at Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet, August 25, 2003. (Guang Niu/Reuters)

  • 28 Jun, 2024
  • Admin

China Restricts Religious Debate Event for Tibetan Monks


Chinese authorities in Sichuan province’s Tibetan-populated Sershul county have imposed stringent restrictions on a major Buddhist philosophical debate event, significantly shortening its duration and reducing the number of participating monks. The annual Dhokham Jang Gunchoe, a cornerstone tradition for Tibet’s three monastic universities — Drepung, Gaden, and Sera — typically spans two weeks and draws thousands of monks. However, this year, the event, which commenced on June 19 at Za Bhum Nyingma Monastery, was cut to one week, and attendance was limited to 3,200 monks, down from approximately 7,000.


The session proceeded under tight surveillance, with armed police stationed at the monastery and surrounding areas, and visitors subjected to rigorous checks. Authorities also meticulously vetted the participating monks and nuns for political affiliations.


These measures reflect China’s ongoing efforts to control and curtail religious activities in Tibet, viewing Tibetan Buddhism as a challenge to its political sovereignty. In recent years, the Chinese government has intensified its oversight, including establishing police stations near monasteries, enforcing “patriotic re-education,” and expelling Buddhist clergy from religious institutes.


Local authorities’ abrupt cancellation of the Dhokham Jang Gunchoe in 2023 prompted the monastery and its supporters to petition for this year’s session. Permission was granted, but with substantial restrictions, justified by the authorities on security grounds.