Senior New Kadampa Tradition members acting as spokespersons for the various front organizations they have created to promote the Shugden issue have repeatedly denied any relationship with the Chinese authorities in Beijing, declaring such allegations to be “entirely false” and “the propaganda of the Dalai Lama’s camp”. However, when one investigates, it soon becomes clear that there is an established relationship between the Chinese Government, Dolgyal Shugden and his New Kadampa devotees organizing protests in the West.
Chinese interest in the Shugden issue actually goes back to the early 19th century, at a time when the Manchu Imperial Court wielded considerable influence in Tibet. After consulting the spirit’s oracle on a number of important issues, Emperor Daoguang instructed that Shugden be officially referred to as “The Guardian of the Doctrine of the Yellow Hats” [the Dalai Lamas’ Gelugpa order]. It might even be said therefore that Chinese oligarchs were involved in initiating Shugden’s recent rise to prominence in the contemporary Tibetan religious world.
Tibetan suspicions that the Chinese were developing an unhealthy interest in Shugden in the current period arose in 1996 when the Dalai Lama announced that Tibetan government-in-exile oracles had suggested “Dolgyal relates to Chinese deities.” One long standing oracular deity, Pehar, even went so far as to suggest through his trance medium that Shugden was intent upon “delivering Tibet into the hands of the Chinese.”
In February 1997 came the grisly murder of the Dalai Lama’s close friend and associate Geshe Lobsang Gyatso and his two students, alleged by Indian police investigators to be at the hands of Shugden devotees. The identified individuals slipped back over the Chinese border and were escorted back to their home villages within Tibet by the Chinese authorities, though those very same Chinese authorities were subsequently “unable to locate” them in response to an Interpol arrest warrant. (See The Dalai Lama and the King Demon, for full documentation).
Soon after, in September 1998, Time magazine Asia confirmed Beijing was actively recruiting disgruntled Tibetan Shugden worshipers to spy on and create dissent within the exiled Tibetan community. And in March 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that, at the same time as the Chinese Government was destroying mainstream Buddhist temples and statues of Tibet’s patron saint, Padmasambhava, it was simultaneously dedicating large amounts of Government funds to the rebuilding of Shugden monasteries and temples throughout the Tibetan plateau.
Further evidence of increasing Chinese interest in the dispute was the 2004 meeting between Chinese Government officials and a Shugden oracle at a small monastery in Chinese-controlled Tibet. At the meeting, documented in an academic paper on monastic politics by Hillman, the corporeal host to the deity entered into trance: oracles normally only enter into trance for the purposes of consultation. Why the representatives of a thoroughly irreligious political regime should want to communicate with Shugden remains a mystery, though this event would certainly seem to confirm the assertion made by the Dalai Lama’s oracles that Dolgyal Shugden was working with the Chinese.
Nevertheless, while these occurrences demonstrate a Chinese Government wish to involve itself in Tibetan religious and political affairs via the Shugden issue, they do not, at first glance at least, demonstrate any relationship between NKT Shugden devotees in the West organizing protests and the Chinese government’s parallel campaign to defame and undermine the reputation of the Dalai Lama.
First indications of a developing relationship between the NKT and China came in the early 2000s, not long after the first anti-Dalai-Lama demonstrations, when devotees began translating Kelsang Gyatso’s study manuals into Chinese after receiving permission to distribute them throughout China. The translations were conducted in an air of great secrecy behind closed doors at the NKT’s Manjushri Centre headquarters, though why such secrecy should be necessary is not clear.
Further evidence linking the New Kadampas to Beijing emerges when one examines several letters sent by the early NKT ‘front organization’, the ‘Western Shugden Society’ [WSS]. Kelsang Gyatso, founder of the NKT, identified himself as the seniormost “representative” of the WSS in 2008 when he “personally organized” demonstrations against the Dalai Lama during tours of the US, UK and Australia. Senior WSS figures who acted as signatories to these letters were his closest students and invariably, as with all such demonstrations that have taken place since 1996, WSS demonstrations were always populated overwhelmingly by members of the NKT.
A number of these WSS letters gave as their return address the offices of the Delhi-based, “Dorje Shugden Devotees Charitable and Religious Society” [DSDCRS], clearly identifying said offices as their base in the East.
The DSDCRS has an unfortunate history, its members having openly issued threatening letters to well known Shugden critic Gen Lobsang Gyatso shortly before his brutal murder in 1997. More ominously, in the days preceding his death, his killers took a taxi from Manjnu Ka Tilla where the DSDCRS is based. Ordering their driver to follow a car occupied by Lobsang Gyatso, police tracked a call the killers made during the journey and established it was to the home of DSDCRS General Secretary, Chime Tsering.
Following the murder, the police wrestled a bag from the deceased Lobsang Gyatso’s petrified hands taken from one of his assailants. It contained DSDCRS documents which justified the use of violence and bloodshed in silencing opposition to Shugden. Police investigators subsequently uncovered pictures of the killers posing together with a smiling DSDCRS Secretary .
DSDCRS officials themselves have been courting India and Nepal-based Chinese diplomats regularly since 1998; guest of honor at their 2001 ‘Millennium conference on human rights’ for instance, was the Chinese Ambassador to India. In 2004, one DSDCRS senior, Lobsang Yeshe, held meetings with officials from the Chinese Consulate in Delhi. A number of other such meetings have been documented.
At one of these meetings, DSDCRS seniors worked together with Chinese diplomats to draft a letter to Beijing, asking the Government to intercede in the Shugden dispute. Thus it was that when Tibetan officials met with Chinese diplomats in Tibet in 2008, one of the concerns the Chinese raised was over the Dalai Lama’s “suppression of Shugden followers basic human right to freedom of religion”, a somewhat strange point for the ideologically anti-religious Chinese regime to raise, a regime which recently tried to ban fasting at Ramadan.
It is possible that the aforementioned Chinese officials raised their concerns in response to 2008 reports from State media agency Xinhua that the Dalai Lama had “started slaughtering the members of New Kadampa Tradition who dare accuse him.” [NB. While Shugden devotees have openly written about Shugden’s involvement in the premature demise of hundreds of innocents, no evidence exists of even a single Shugden devotee dying due to his or her religious beliefs.]
In the demonstrations accompanying the visit of the Dalai Lama to Nottingham in June 2008, dozens of concerned Chinese students stood shoulder to shoulder with NKT ‘followers dressed as monks and nuns, holding standard WSS issue placards, together and in one voice chanting their now famous 21st century ‘Buddhist’ mantras, “Dalai Lama stop lying” and “Dalai Lama give religious freedom”.
This not unprecedented commonality of language exposes the clear ideological links and shared goals of Western Shugden supporters and the Chinese Government in Beijing. Indeed, propaganda and name-calling employed by Chinese politicians, State media agency Xinhua, and even the State-sponsored Chinese Buddhist Association to attack the Dalai Lama is frequently exactly the same as that used during political demonstrations by NKT Shugden protesters across the West.
While, for instance, Shugden supporters’ publications refer to the Dalai Lama as “the worst dictator in the modern world”, Xinhua’s ‘China Tibet Online’ quotes Foreign Office officials as comparing him to “the cruel Nazis of the Second World War” and his unwillingness to condemn human rights protests within Tibet as, “similar to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews”. While, for example, Shugden protesters accuse him of being a “liar” and a “hypocrite”, China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, has cast the Dalai Lama as a “serial liar…who “has been telling lies to the world for decades” a “tricky liar skilled in double-dealing”. While pro-Shugden websites carry stories such as “How the Dalai Lama is Destroying A Religion”, Master Shenghui, vice-president of the State-controlled Buddhist Association of China, has accused the Dalai Lama of “dishonoring the Buddhist religion.” Again, while these websites run stories such as “Is the Dalai Lama a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?” and feature images of him removing a smiling mask to reveal a more sinister demeanour beneath, the Chinese Government similarly refers to him as a ‘jackal” and ” a wolf in monk’s robes”, who is simply “pretending to be peaceful-like, an angel-type of figure.”
Readers must draw their own conclusions as to whether all of these instances and recurrent commonalities are mere coincidence or genuine evidence of links between the Chinese and NKT Shugden devotees. But none of the above is fantasy; all of these events happened. Each individual piece of information is fact locatable in the public domain and each, unlike all of the Shugden devotees allegations, is firmly evidenced and goes unchallenged in a court of law; nothing is hearsay or speculation. Considering all the information together, it is not beyond the realms of reason to conclude that the Chinese Government is using the Shugden issue as a weapon in their PR campaign against the Dalai Lama. Nor, in light of the communication between the Chinese Government and the Delhi branch of the Western Shugden Society, does it seem absurd to suggest that the Chinese Government might, at least in part, be behind the NKT-organized, WSS, ISC, etc., demonstrations against the Dalai Lama in some of the major cities of the West.
FURTHER READING & SUPPORTING EVIDENCE
LOS ANGELES TIMES Tibetans tire of peaceful ‘middle way’ By Dexter Filkins
TIME ASIA Angry Spirit-Tibetan exiles allege that China is supporting a Buddhist sectarian feud that resulted in a foiled attempt to assassinate the Dalai Lama By Tim McGirk
THE CHINA JOURNAL Monastic politics and the local state in China By Ben Hillman
NKT WORLD Kelsang Gyatso-Truth Teller?
CHINA.ORG.CN Dalai Lamas action: religious autocracy under cover of democracy By Zou Ren
THE TIMES Interpol on trail of buddhist killers By Jane Macartney
TIBET INFO NET Sewing dissent and undermining the Dalai Lama
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE COMPUTER LABORATORY-The snooping dragon: social-malware surveillance of the Tibetan movement
And, on this site, the NEWSWEEK and INDEPENDENT posts [see ‘articles’]