“Religious groups… should adhere to the management of the Communist Party the China.”

President Xi Jinping, April 2016

Religion is one of the most distinctive and important aspects of Tibet’s unique culture. For the Chinese government, however, faith in Tibet is a political and security issue. Subduing monasteries, monks and nuns and controlling how Tibetans practise their religion is central to its plan to remove Tibetan resistance to its rule.

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The us State Department's 2016 report ~ above international religious freedom describes the repression of spiritual freedom in Tibet as “severe”. It documents “reports of extrajudicial killings, an extensive detention without trial, torture, and arrests of individuals as result of their spiritual practices”.

China’s control and also suppression that Tibetan spiritual life is based on much more than violence. All aspects of Tibetan Buddhism space subject come state control and China has even claimed the best to appoint the leader that Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama.

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Losang Thupten, arrested Ngaba 2 may 2016

China's fear of Tibetan Buddhism

Religion has actually played a key part in Tibet’s culture and national politics throughout the history, and also continues to be main to the resides of Tibetans today. The vast bulk of Tibetans practise Tibetan Buddhism and also retain a deep reverence because that its leader, the Dalai Lama. Because that China, this means religious authorities and also institutions are rivals to its authority and also a threat.

Because that their status as neighborhood leaders and also their experience of persecution by China, monks and nuns have consistently been at the forefront of resistance come China’s rule, defending Tibetan language and also culture, planning and also leading protests, educating Tibetans around the social and also environmental effects of the occupation and in sending out information about Tibet to the outside world. Girlfriend can find out much more about the function of monks and nuns in Tibet’s resistance on our pages around Tibet’s monasteries. Together a result, monks, nuns and also other spiritual figures have actually been regular targets for surveillance, persecution, violence and propaganda.

Spotlight ~ above monasteries

In Tibet today, regional government and Communist Party officials take a direct duty in the monitoring of abbeys through “management committees”. Abbeys are compelled to paris Chinese flags and also have portraits that the leader of the Communist Party. In 2015, a senior Communist official said that monks must behave in a “patriotic and law-abiding” manner. Surveillance cameras and also even police train station are situated inside and also outside monasteries and also regular inspections to uncover indications of loyalty to the Dalai Lama take place.

When unrest wake up in any kind of Tibetan area, the defense spotlight will fall on its spiritual institutions. Complying with political disturbances in Driru ar in the Tibet Autonomous region in 2013 and 2014, monks and nuns were arrested for both participating in protest and also for allegedly planning future protests.

They are regularly subject to “patriotic re-education” – intensive propaganda sessions in which teams of officials and also party cadres topic monks and also nuns to propaganda and also compel them come agree that Tibet is one inalienable component of China or denounce the Dalai Lama. Monks and nuns who have refused to do so have been arrested, tortured and expelled from your monasteries.


Religious constraints in day-to-day life

Restrictions on religious freedom have a direct and far-reaching impact on lay Tibetans. Pilgrimages to spiritual sites space strictly controlled and also it has become almost impossible because that Tibetans to attain permission to attend spiritual teachings exterior China. Mining or other resource exploitation on sacred sites is generally permitted and often provokes protest.

Large gatherings of Tibetans are regarded as a danger by the authorities. As a result, security forces are frequently deployed in ~ prayer festivals and also other spiritual gatherings. In July 2013 Chinese security pressures opened fire ~ above a group in Tawu County, Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, that had actually gathered come celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Funerals are additionally a threat. The body of self-immolation protesters that die in ~ the step or in custody are often cremated through police to protect against normal religious ceremonies and prayer services have the right to be banned.

Family celebrate 80th date of birth of the Dalai Lama within Tibet 2015

Reincarnation and also the Dalai Lama

China asserts its ideal to control one the the an essential aspects the Tibetan buddhist belief: reincarnation. There room thousands the reincarnated “lamas” in Tibet and China’s atheist regime claims the right to “approve” castle all. It also plans to manage the most essential reincarnation that all: the leader the Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama.

For China, the greatest religious threat it faces is the virtually universal devotion feel by Tibetans because that the Dalai Lama. His exile from Tibet remains among Tibetans’ deepest grievances under Chinese rule. Tibetan writers, singers and protesters generally call for his return – and also are punished because that it. China demonises him, as with a state media write-up accusing the of sympathy for Islamic State. His pictures and teachings are banned and Tibetans challenge harsh punishments for being discovered in possession of them. In January 2014 the Tibetan monk Thardhod Gyaltsen was sentenced come 18 year in prison after police found him storing pictures and recordings the the Dalai Lama throughout a raid ~ above his monastery in 2013.

Beijing’s strategy is to control Tibetan Buddhism at the really highest level by deciding that the brand-new Dalai Lama will certainly be after the fatality of the 14th. It has actually taken this method before. In 1995, it abducted Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (pictured below), a six-year-old young who had actually been determined by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama – typically regarded together the second-highest number in Tibetan Buddhism. He has actually not been watched in publicly since. Instead, China appointed its very own “Panchen Lama”, who has a political duty in Beijing and is rubbish by Tibetans as a fake.

If that appoints its own "Dalai Lama", China will certainly be subverting the deep spiritual traditions of Tibetan Buddhism for its political ends. The Dalai Lama has actually said he will certainly consult with spiritual authorities and Tibetans on even if it is there need to be a 15th Dalai Lama and, if the college is come continue, will certainly leave clean instructions on the process to recognize his reincarnation. He has actually stated plainly that only someone liked by that technique will it is in the true Dalai Lama.

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Members the the Chinese government have described his place as “blasphemy” and also a “betrayal”. Undoubtedly, however, a Chinese-appointed Dalai Lama would certainly be universally rejected by Tibetans.