Defendant Tashi Gyatso’s responses to allegations in court assert that the Tibetan religious believers in the community first raised their concerns against the Gansu Amdo Investment Group’s construction of a slaughterhouse in their home area. The collective concern was submitted as a petition to the different levels of government and the county party committee. He also explains that the local Tibetans’ idea to build a stupa out of the compensation fund given by Amdo Group could not be utilized, as an impending railway construction plan in their home area hindered them in determining a location for the stupa lest it fell on the infrastructure plan. He also points out that the fund is in the safe hands of the Namlha Monastery Management Committee. To the question of extortion from Ma Weimin and Ma Gawu, Tashi replies that the fund from them was a voluntary donation, and the amount of donation was determined by them. In the past, Tibetans too have donated for a mosque that was being built by Hui Muslims in the town.
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Presiding Judge (PJ): Are you the one who decided to ask Amdo Group for money?
Tashi Gyatso (TG): It [decision] was passed at a meeting of the Monastery’s Management Committee.
PJ: Are you responsible for holding the meeting?
TG: The people of the community raised concerns first. After listening to the opinions of the people, we held a meeting and reported the situation to the township, the county, and the prefecture.
PJ: Why didn’t you build the stupa [stupa to be built in the area as compensation for building slaughterhouse in the area]? Where is the money now?
TG: Because of the railway construction plan, we could not build the stupa yet. The money is with the Monastery’s Management Committee.
PJ: Is the money used for private loans?
TG: We had lent some money to people in the community once, but it was not from the money paid by Amdo Group, but from the capital of the monastery. There were one to two million yuan in the monastery’s account book then.
PJ: Did you forcibly demand 20,000 yuan from Ma Weimin and Ma Gawu through threats?
TG: No money was taken by force. We just went to collect donations and did not propose how much money should be donated. They donated 20,000 yuan voluntarily. If we threaten them, they will not be afraid of us, and there is no need to be afraid, because everyone is equal before the law. The accusation stated that they were threatened by members of our monastery’s management committee on the second floor of Namlha Monastery’s restaurant. This is not true.
PJ: Why did you write the petitions?
TG: The purpose of the petitions written by the masses to the county party committee, county government, prefecture party committee, and prefecture government was to express that the local religious believers disagree with the project of building a slaughterhouse here.
PJ: Was it your idea to build a stupa?
TG: Building a stupa was opinion of the masses.
PJ: What is the source of the monastery’s financial funds?
TG: The main sources of financial funds are donations from the people, support from relevant government departments, and the monastery’s own fundraising activities.
PJ: How was the relationship between Lin-He Expressway Section 12 Project Department and you?
TG: Their boss and I were friends. When they had conflicts with local people, we came forward to mediate.
PJ: Why did you ask for money from Ma Weimin and Ma Gawu?
TG: There are Tibetan, Han and Hui ethnic groups in Banggurthang Town. We usually help each other regardless of religion or ethnicity. We have also provided help to their mosques. At that time, our Namlha Monastery organized fundraising activities in all villages, including their village. They donated 20,000 yuan voluntarily, and we never said how much to donate.
PJ: How did the monastery’s folk management committee form?
TG: The monastery’s folk management committee has always existed. It has been there long before I was the director of the monastery’s folk management committee. I even don’t know when it started.
PJ: Is it necessary for members of the Monastery’s Management Committee to participate in each meeting?
TG: If you can’t participate for some reason, you can skip it.
PJ: Power rest with you to say anything about the affairs of the monastery’s management committee, right? How do you summon them to a meeting?
TG: No. Every member has the final say on the affairs of the monastery’s management committee. When we need a meeting, I will communicate to them over the phone. Other monasteries have monastery management committees just like ours. Namlha Monastery is a sub-monastery of Labrang Monastery.
TG: During my tenure as the director of the Monastery’s Folk Management Committee from 2011 to 2018, I donated all the allowances paid to me by the government to the monastery, and I never took any money for myself. During this period, we built the Great Hall, greened the surrounding environment of the monastery, and expanded the scale of the monastery.