Subject: Sky Burials in TIBET (FYI)

SKY BURIAL has been going on for thousands of years, and is still practiced in Tibet. It is not an uncommon practice exclusive of the Parsis or Zoroastrians.

World Tibet Network News
Thursday, February 22, 1996
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1. AUTHORITIES ENFORCE SKY BURIAL RULES
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Forwarded by: artpk@HK.Super.NET (Peter Kedge)
By: Didi Kirsten Tatlow

Eastern Express 16th February 1996

All 'sky burials' in Tibet must first receive permission from a local representatives of the national Civil Affairs Ministry
under new regulations jut passed by the Tibet Autonomous Region government. Religious leaders presiding over sky burials are required to undergo "studies" at their local neighbourhood committee, an official report said.
Neighbourhood committees are community working groups which keep an eye on local affairs, reporting them to the relevant authorities when necessary.

The Communist Party maintains a party committee on each neighbourhood committee. The traditional Tibetan practice of sky burial, in which the corpse is exposed in the open air to be eaten by vultures, was legislated for in 1985 and 1990.

A new set of rules, "Rules to manage Lhasa district sky burial masters" was announced in Lhasa on Wednesday. The rules aim to "establish order" in the ranks of Tibetan "sky burial masters', or priests, the official New China New Agency (Xinhua) reported on Wednesday. Three divisions of the Civil Affairs Ministry - the Tibet Autonomous Region
Civil Affairs Bureau, Lhasa city area branch and Lhasa city (proper) branch - agreed on the rules during a meeting last Saturday, Xinhua said.

The rules were part of a broader drive to enforce regulations governing participation and hygiene at sky burial grounds in the area surrounding the special regional capital, Xinhua said.

The 12-part regulations would "raise the skills and morals of sky burial masters." Priests who conduct sky burials must be officially approved by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The number of people watching burials will be controlled, and any increase in onlookers "must first be approved by the ministry."

The regulation raised the possibility that a quota system was in operation. In addition to carrying out sky burials, priests are required to attend "study classes and other activities in their neighbourhood committee," the report said.

The report appeared to suggest all sky burials were supervised by members of the government.

"Those (organising) the sky burials are required to make sure the environment is kept clean," it said.

Part of the new regulations was aimed at driving unwanted observers away from the site of the deeply religious practice, the report indicated.

"People turning up unexpected at sky burials, taking photographs and videotaping proceedings must be reported to the local ministry which will punish them," it said. Two earlier pieces of legislation were already in force: the Announcement from the Autonomous Region Government in 1985 and the Notice on the Protection of Sky Burial of 1990.

"Since then, the incidence of (unwanted) people turning up at the burials has decreased," Xinhua claimed.

[* ONE EXPLANATION FOR THE CLAMP DOWN COULD BE THAT - THE SKY BURIAL PROCESS IS IN EFFECT AN AUTOPSY WHICH CAN REVEAL INTERNAL INJURIES SUSTAINED DURING WHAT ARE NEAR ROUTINE BEATINGS.

THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF DECEASED POLITICAL PRISONERS EXAMINED BY SKY BURIAL ATTENDANTS WHO DISCOVERED KIDNEY LESIONS, SCARRED LIVERS, AND HEALED RIBS INDICATING SEVERE BEATINGS.

IN SOME CASES THEY CONSIDERED THAT DAMAGE TO INTERNAL ORGANS ESPECIALLY KIDNEYS HAD BEEN SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTORS TO DEATH.]