China Asks Buddhist Monks to Leave Quake Area

The New York Times has more on the order for Buddhist monks to cease disaster relief work near the Yushu earthquake site and to return to their monasteries:

In a written response to questions from The Associated Press, the central government’s State Council Information Office expressed gratitude for the monks’ rescue efforts. But “it would bring more difficulties to disaster relief work if lots of unprofessional personnel were at the scene,” the statement added.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted the governor of Yushu Prefecture, where the quake was centered, as saying that he knew of no order to expel the monks. “We did not give or receive any orders of such kind,” the governor, Wang Yuhu, was quoted as saying. “Actually, we are very grateful for the role Tibetan monks played in the relief effort.”

Yushu Prefecture, where the quake hit hardest, is home to perhaps 200 Buddhist temples, including three that housed more than 500 monks each, Xinhua reported. But hundreds if not thousands of monks had streamed into Yushu from surrounding areas to assist in rescue work after the earthquake struck early on April 14.

Buddhist monks ran most of the early rescue operations in Jiegu, a city of 100,000 near the quake’s epicenter. As rescues of survivors dwindled, the monks have supervised mass cremations and the mandatory three-day period of mourning for the dead.

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