Chinese government is controlling monasteries, no freedom of religion

"As a result, the Chinese government wants to “either eradicate the religious faith of the Tibetans or convert Tibet into an atheist region where the “communal spiritual civilization”-By Dechen Choedo

Ever since the Chinese government’s Annexation of Tibet officially in 1959, Tibet has been under the rule of the Chinese government. Although China has mentioned in the 17th point agreement of giving space for the Tibetans to practice their religion and respect its language, it is a complete lie.

Despite the fact that Buddhism is practiced by the majority of Tibetans and has always been a centre of the importance of Tibet culture and identity for the centennial.

However, since the invasion of Tibet in the 1950s Chinese government has called on successive repressive policies against its practice. In the scenario of today‟s in Tibet, monasteries are debarred to give long-established monastics education which forms an essential part of Tibetan Buddhism.

Monks and nuns are instead put through “patriotic education” and other political campaigns that are structurally against the foundations beliefs of Buddhism.

The 2016 demolition of the Larung Gar is the living proof of the Chinese government’s intolerance of Tibetans devotions to Buddhism. In July 2016 Chinese authorities passed out a plan of reducing residents of Larung Gar, the largest Buddhist institute in the world. The plan required the residents to be expelled and the houses to be torn down.

Residents of Larung Gar were not referred about the plan, despite the claims by Chinese authorities that the aim was to protect the safety of the residents by reducing overcrowding and the risk of fire. Larung Gar Buddhist Institute has a student population of 10,000.

Most of them are Tibetans, but there are a large number of students from Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea. There are over 1000 Chinese students from mainland China at the institute. Since it was founded by the late Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok in 1980, the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute has become the largest centre for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, out-numbering and out-performing long-established monasteries like Sera, Ganden and Drepung in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

Using satellite imagery from before and after demolitions took place, testimonies from residents and reports from journalists who have gained access to Larung Gar, this report argues that the demolitions have not been motivated by concerns over the resident’s safety.

Instead, the objectives behind the damage appear to be the elimination of an alternative source of authority to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule and the reduction of an influential and highly respected Tibetan Buddhist site to a tourist destination. Tibet’s Buddhist institutions play a central role in the day-to-day lives of Tibetans.

The campaign of destruction at a respected religious institution like Larung Gar should be seen as an attempt to limit the influence of Buddhism on the Tibetan people and, more broadly, an attack on Tibet’s culture, religion and way of life.

Charging Tulku Tenzin Delek with life imprisonment on a fake group caused his Tibetan followers immense grief and sorrow. Before he passed away, he had said that “Since I am a Tibetan, I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetan people.

That is the real reason why the Chinese do not like me and framed me. That is why they are going to take my precious life even though I am innocent." His untimely death is still a mystery and his niece Nyima Lhamo has demanded reinvestigation into his death.

Chinese authorities has often controlled or canceled religious festivals, disallow monks from going to villages to conduct religious ceremonies and maintain tight control over the activities of religious leaders and religious gatherings of Tibetans.

Those who raise questions on religious freedom are mostly accused on political ground, allegedly associating them with “Dalai Lama and his clique” and given severe punishments.

One of the major concerns in Tibet today is the torture and strict sentencing of lamas and other spiritual leaders for their loyalty and firm devotions towards the Dalai Lama. Possessing an image of Dalai Lama or an object which take after devotion to him and other spiritual leaders is „Political‟ in nature and looked as „unsatisfactory loyalty to the state and the communist leadership which ends up in punishments.

The Chinese security forces often conduct night raids in monasteries to search images of Dalai Lama, CDs of his religious teachings and any other object that is believed to “subversive” to the party. Monks and nuns are frequently subjected to arbitrary detention, thrashing and cruelty during these night raids, some even go disappear.

As religious observance is central to the lives of many Tibetans and relationships with religious institutions remain significant in many communities, restrictions on religious freedom have a direct and significant impact on laypeople.

The restrictions they face can be both petty and fundamental.

Tibetan pilgrims have been banned from building monuments or carving unauthorized mani stones - a devotional object in Tibetan Buddhism that consists of stones with Buddhist mantras carved into the surface.

Pilgrimages to holy sites are strictly controlled and it has become almost impossible for Tibetans to obtain consent to attend religious teachings outside China.

Large gatherings of Tibetans are observed as a threat by the authorities. As a result, security forces are usually present at prayer festivals and other religious gatherings, and often deployed in intimidating force, such as at the Monlam prayer festival at Kumbum monastery in 2015.

In July 2013, Chinese security forces opened fire on a crowd in Tawu County, Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, that had gathered to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. One monk was shot in the head and at least six others received gunshot wounds. The Chinese government relates Tibetan Buddhism with the perceived fear of the Tibetan desire for separation from China.

A strategy which, according to China, is promoted by the Dalai Lama, the Central Tibetan Administration, and other foreign “hostile” and anti-Chinese forces. As a result, the Chinese government wants to “either eradicate the religious faith of the Tibetans or convert Tibet into an atheist region where the “communal spiritual civilization” will be propagated to the Tibetan people.”

This is the core policy on which China’s religiously repressive measures in Tibet are founded. In 2008 the Tibetan Plateau experienced a wave protest, during which thousands of Tibetans called for religious freedom, a free Tibet, and the return of their spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

Since then, government control over religious practice and the running of monastic institutions has been extraordinarily tight. Many of the monks, nuns, and other political prisoners arrested during the 2008 uprising still remain in detention today.

Heavy restrictions on freedom of movement and the forced moving of nomadic communities from their grasslands to small towns, effectively cutting them off from their traditional Buddhist culture, contribute to the virtual lockdown and undeclared martial law in place in Tibet today.

 The increased restrictions have resulted in 95 protest self-immolations in Tibet. A large number of the self-immolators have been monks and nuns who could no longer stand the oppression. Tibetan Buddhist monks have been known for their patience and resilience in the face of adversity.

The case of these burning protests is clear evidence that Tibetan monks have been pushed to the extreme limits of human endurance and helplessness in the face of oppressive Chinese rule.

Although the Chinese government tries badly to conceal them, numerous videos, pictures, and news of the self-immolations have been leaked into the international community.

These depictions capture the self-immolators calling for “religious freedom in Tibet,” and the return of their beloved spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In this way, China is not only proclaiming its sovereignty in East China and South China Seas. It is asserting its sovereignty on Tibet's spiritual space.

The Tibetan people's reaction to efforts made by the Chinese Communist Party to interfere into Tibetan spiritual space and life is made clear by their attitude towards the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama. Gayltsen Norbu, the Party-appointed Panchen Lama, is forced to live in Beijing and not at Tashi Lhunpo, the traditional monastery of the Panchen Lamas of Tibet in Shigatse.

This is because the monks of Tashi Lhunpo are too argumentative for his comfort and the comfort of the Chinese Communist Party. China’s repression of Tibetan Buddhism is a clear example of the reluctance of the Chinese government to accept by international norms and standards.

Because the Chinese State is so basically oppressive against religious freedom, there need to be some solemn policy changes in the way the Chinese government conducts its treatment of Tibetans.

The policies that lead to this repression, however, are so deep-rooted in Communist Chinese policy and practice, that there is little positivity that change will happen in the near future.

 In order to convert its repressive mentality, the Chinese government needs a better commitment to respecting human rights, as well as policies that are aware of inclusive religious freedom. For instance, China must stop using such fixed protocols of everyday monastic life.

These heavy regulations on the manner in which monasteries conduct religious ceremonies, education, and employment result in an unfair outcome which greatly hinders the ability of Tibetan Buddhists to practice their faith of choice. Buddhism has often been termed as a religion of peace.

As such, the Chinese government needs to allow Tibetan Buddhists to practice their convictions without the fear of being labeled as separatists or even terrorists.

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