In its annual report on international religious freedom released Wednesday (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.”
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
“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.