Following the troubles in Tibet in March 2008, a terrible repression has crushed the people of Tibet. Besides summary executions and arbitrary arrests, the NGO TibetInfoNet has reported on thefts perpetrated by the Chinese security forces in monasteries and also in private houses.
On 14 April 2008, at the Monastery of Labrang, the Chinese security forces vandalized altars, destroyed photos of the Dalai Lama, computers and mobile telephones, and confiscated money. They also took away antique sacred paintings and statues that the monks had been able to conserve, even during the Cultural Revolution when terrible excesses took place. Many of these objects had great cultural and economic value, and in many cases, great historic significance. Offended and shocked by these acts, the Lama at the head of the monastery informed senior national officials of these incidents, but no action has been taken.
On 18 April 2008, at the Tsandrok monastery in the Amdo area, a raid was perpetrated by Chinese Han soldiers. Amongst the articles stolen were sacred painting, statues and other religious objects, including antique porcelain bowls and jewels. The soldiers took an antique state of Buddha made of copper and gold, measuring approximately 15 centimetres, belonging to the monks. They also took a ritual bell in its ancient original bamboo and leather wrapping, about eight antique porcelain bowls, also gold statues of Palden Lhamo, the divine protector of Tibet, and Tara, another major divinity. The “security forces” also took a mobile telephone worth 2,500 Yuan (UK£183; US$365; 231 Euros).
Some sources have also reported that the most sacred statue in the monastery, That Og Chogyal, a gift from the 7th Panchen Lama (1782-1853) to Shatha Palgyl, was also stolen. The statue in gold and copper is seen as the spiritual soul of the local community, and the monastery itself was constructed in 1819 to honour it.
The theft of personal possessions is not limited to monasteries; rural communities have suffered similar experiences. The police and armed soldiers have searched private houses, seized pictures of the Dalai Lama, taken away family jewels in gold, turquoise and coral, as well as ancient religious statues and money. Similar incidences of fines and arbitrary seizure of personal possessions, including objects without any political connotation, have been reported in different parts of Tibet, including Ngaba, Machu, Rebkong, Labrang and Kardze.
Chronique France-Tibet-Ile-de-France, reported in Bouddhisme Actualités, September 2008.