November 19, 2010

Tibet: US Encourages Chinese Government to Respect Religious Freedom

 

In its annual report on international religious freedom released

on 17 November, the US government has said it "continues to

be concerned for the preservation and development of the Tibetan

people's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage and the

protection of their fundamental human rights."

 

Below is an article published by Tibetan UN Advocacy:

 

Dharamshala: The report documented comprehensive accounts of

restrictions on religious freedom, abuse of religious freedom, forced

religious conversion and the US government's efforts encourage greater

religious freedom in Tibet. (Read full report on Tibet)

 

According to the report, "the level of religious repression in the

Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas remained high.

Government control over religious practice and the day-to-day

management of monasteries and other religious institutions continued

to be extraordinarily tight since the spring 2008 outbreak of

widespread protests and unrest in Tibetan regions."

 

"These restrictions included forcing monks and nuns to undergo

extensive "patriotic education" in monasteries and nunneries that

included significant amounts of "legal education" which detracted from

religious studies. In patriotic education sessions, authorities often

forced monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama and to study

materials praising the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

and the socialist system. Monks and nuns fled from their monasteries

and nunneries because they faced expulsion for refusing to comply with

the education sessions. Overall numbers of monks and nuns in

monasteries and nunneries remained at significantly lower levels than

pre-March 2008," it said.

 

The report criticised the Chinese government for using rules and

regulations to control Tibetan religious traditions. "Rules and

regulations provided a legal basis for government control over Tibetan

religious traditions. The Management Measures on Reincarnation, issued

by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, codified government

control over the selection of Tibetan religious leaders, including

reincarnate lamas," it said.

 

The report said as of 1 September 2010, the Congressional Executive

Commission on China's Political Prisoner Database records 824 Tibetan

political or religious prisoners believed to be currently detained or

imprisoned. Of those 824 Tibetans, 479 (approximately 58 percent) are

Tibetan Buddhist "religious professionals" (monks, nuns, and tulkus).

 

At the end of the reporting period, many monks and nuns remained in

detention because of their involvement in the March 2008 protests.

Several monks also reportedly committed suicide as a result of the

harsh conditions and religious restrictions in monasteries that were

imposed after March 2008, the report said.

 

According to numerous sources, many of those detained were subjected

to extrajudicial punishments, such as beatings and deprivation of

food, water, and sleep for long periods. In some cases detainees

reportedly suffered broken bones and other serious injuries at the

hands of People's Armed Police (PAP) and Public Security Bureau (PSB)

officers.

 

More than 80 nuns reportedly were detained in Sichuan Province after

March 2008 and their whereabouts were still unknown.

 

Limited access to information about prisoners and prisons made it

difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan prisoners of religious

conscience or to assess the extent and severity of abuses, the report

said.

 

The US government encouraged the government and local authorities to

respect religious freedom and allow Tibetans to preserve and develop

their religious traditions. US diplomatic personnel visited the TAR

five times during the reporting period. TAR officials often restricted

US diplomatic personnel's ability to talk openly with persons in

Tibetan areas. The US government protested religious persecution and

discrimination, discussed individual cases with the authorities, and

requested further information about specific incidents, the report

noted.

 

The US government continued to urge government leaders to engage in

constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives and

to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to

their effect on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods, as well as

the environment, it said.

 

"...Every year, the State Department prepares a comprehensive review

of the status of religious freedom in countries and territories around

the world. We do this because we believe that religious freedom is

both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable,

peaceful, thriving society," Secretary Hillary Clinton said in her

opening remarks during the release of the report.

 

"This is not only the American view; it is the view of nations and

people around the world. It is enshrined in the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights, it is protected by the International Covenant on

Civil and Political Rights, and it is guaranteed by the laws and

constitutions of many nations, including our own," Clinton said.

 

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