BEIJING: China is training Buddhist monks and nuns in Tibet to carry out anti-espionage operations along the remote Sino-Indian border to prevent attempts to create "conflict" by "ethnic separatists", in a veiled reference to the Dalai Lama and his supporters.
"Twenty-two monks and nuns from three temples in Nyingchi, a city in southeastern Tibet, close to the Sino- Indian border, received the three-hour lecture at Lamaling Temple on the counter-espionage law by local and national security officials," state-run news portal Tibet.cn reported.
The lecture conducted in the Himalayan region along the border with India was about how to abide by the counter- espionage law and the legal consequences of violating the law, it said.
"Nyingchi is of special importance to anti-espionage efforts because there are many military sites," Penpa Lhamo, deputy head of the contemporary studies institute of the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
The monks and nuns are considered vulnerable to espionage activities, as many senior officials in China often visit eminent monks. And temples have always been a focus of government to maintain the stability of Tibet, said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.
"Analysts believe that many overseas intelligence agencies have targeted Tibet as a critical battleground for espionage activities, taking advantage of the active ethnic separatists in the area to provoke conflict and turmoil," the report said.
Lian Xiangmin, director of the Modern Institute of theChina Tibetology Research Centre, said the move could aim at countering espionage activities by the Dalai Lama's "government-in-exile" in Dharamsala.
The 14th Dalai Lama had advocated the political ideal of a plan for a "Greater Tibet" with "a high degree of autonomy," which was slammed by the Chinese authorities as an attempt to create a "state within a state" on Chinese territory as an interim step toward the ultimate goal of full independence, the report said.
Cui Shixin, an official from Nyingchi's national security bureau, hoped the monks and nuns can enhance their capability to distinguish right from wrong and safeguard national unity.
An anonymous official with the religious affairs office of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Tibet committee said that he had never heard of such lectures but emphasised they are necessary.
"Monks are also members of the nation and need to abide by the laws and regulations," he said.
"Tibet is a significant battleground for foreign intelligence institutions, and the trend is likely to continue, as ethnic separatist forces in Tibet are good targets for those agencies," Li said.
The Internet has basically connected everyone and espionage activities are conducted in various forms, Li said.