Patriotic education campaign in Chamdo (Photo: TCHRD)
The Chinese authorities in the "Tibet Autonomous Region" ('TAR') and other Tibetan areas in neighboring provinces have launched a two-months renewed "Patriotic Education" campaign covering almost every sections of society beginning primarily with the monastic institutions, party cadres, security forces and government employees, farmers and private entrepreneurs, educational institutions and common people, to denounce the Dalai Lama and the "splittist forces" in the coming two months.
Following the recent series of protests across the "TAR" and the non-TAR regions by Tibetans, the Chinese authorities launched a renewed "Patriotic Education" campaign as it was earlier concentrated primarily in the monastic institutions long considered as the bastions of political dissidence, covering almost every section of Tibetan communities with more rigor and intensity. The stipulated two-months' renewed "Patriotic Education" campaign launched at the begining of April following unprecedented protests across Tibetan plateau since 10 March, was reinvigorated and targeted only the monastic institutions but also government employees, security forces, farmers, nomads and privated enterpreneurs, educational institutions. The principle and underlying message of this campaign was to "vehemently oppose the Dalai 'clique'" and "to expose the true nature of 'Dalai clique'" and "March 14 riot". Under the supervision of the Communist Party leaders, new committees were formally formed to formulate and execute the campaign across all sections of the society within two months stipulated time period.
Under the three themes, the renewed "patriotic education" campaign aimed to 'educate' the masses about 'opposing splittism', 'protecting stability' and 'backing development', by holding meetings, inviting experts to give speeches, teaching and discussing the contents of the 'patriotic education' campaign, holding denunciation session of the Dalai Lama and screening propaganda shows and teaching chinese laws and regulations.
According to the state run newspaper, Tibet Daily, dated 18 April, a two-month 'patriotic education' campaign was launched in Zangri County in Lhoka Prefecture, "TAR" for government employees, peasants, retired government employees and party members across all townships under Zangri County, pledged and reaffirmed the work ethics for the party cadres. The Zangri County People's Armed Police (PAP) and security forces were told that it was a right time to struggle and protest against the 'splittist' forces. The heads of townships and PAP under those townships were 'educated' about securing stability and further improving the national security. In various educational institutions, students were indoctrinated with communist ideology and taught how Tibet has flourished under its rule and denounced the old and backward Tibetan society by showing films from the period of the Cultural Revolution. Peasants, nomads and private enterpreneurs were told about the economic development achieved and happy life enjoyed by the Tibetans under the patronage and policy of the Communist party. For the monastic institutes, under this campaign monks and nuns are 'educated' to be patriotic towards nation, one's religion, oppose 'splittist' forces, to help maintain social stability, social legal institutes and to restore religious order.
At the beginning of this month, alongside intensification of security, the Chinese authorities have ordered more stringent ideological education and ramped-up propaganda in Tibet "to build anti-separatist sentiment", according to the Tibet Daily, a state run newspaper of 3 April 2008. Under this campaign, "work team" are sent to especially in monastic institutes on a regular basis to undertake this campaign no matter whether monastic populace are willing to attend or not but are compulsorily made to attend. The "TAR" Communist Party chief, Zhang Qingli ordered harsh punishments for local party officials found lacking in their commitment to Beijing's official line. "We absolutely will not condone violations of political and organizational discipline and will definitely find those responsible and mete out harsh punishment". He even told that efforts should be made to focus on negative portrayals of Tibet prior to the Communist invasion in 1950, and continued vilification of what Beijing calls the Dalai Lama's secret campaign to split Tibet from China and sabotage the Olympics, according to the state run newspaper Tibet Daily.
On 3 April, more than eight people including monks were shot dead and dozens left injured after fellow monks of Tongkor Monastery in Kardze County, staged a peaceful demonstration calling for the release of two monks arrested earlier on 2 April for objecting Chinese "Patriotic Education" campaign in the monastery.
On 11 April, the "TAR" authorities sent the "Legal information Education" "work team" as a part of the "patriotic education" campaign in Drepung Monastery, who were confronted by the monks of the monastery against visit of the "work team" to conduct the campaign and later detained by the authorities. There is no information on the condition and whereabouts of those detainees. However, according to the Chinese official mouthpiece, Xinhau, dated 11 April, reported that a patriotic education group has arrived at the monastery "to help maintain social stability, socialist legal institutions" and "restore religious order" but suppressed the protest and detention of monks in its report and cited "TAR" government as saying the officials involved in the "patriotic education" campaign throughout Tibet "have received the understanding and support of monks and religious followers". Mr. Zhang Qingli, the "TAR" Communist Party chief visited the Drepung Monastery on 18 April 2008.
On the same day on 18 April 2008, the "TAR" Communist Party chief Zhang Qingli visited Sera Monastery giving assurance to the monks that "the Communist Party committee and government of Tibet would protect the legal rights and interests of patriotic and devouts monks and nuns". The Xinhua reported that the Buddhist service have resumed after being suspended due to Lhasa 'riot' bu the official mouthpiece completely skipped the report of the detention of around four hundreds monks of the monastery in the early morning raid in Sera Monastery. There is no information on the condition and whereabout of those detained from the monastery.
On 12 April, a special meeting was convened among the representatives of the various monastic institutions under all eighteen counties of Kardze "Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture" ("TAP") at Dartsedo and instructed to commence the "patriotic education" campaign immediately across all religious institutions in Kardze.
According to official media reports, the campaign was reinvigorated across Lhasa city, educational departments in Lhasa, in Lhoka and Chamdo Prefecture.
On 3 April, monks of Wara Monastery in Jomda County, Chamdo Prefecture "TAR" confronted and challenged the "work team" from carrying 'patriotic education' campaign by saying 'even at the cost of our lives we will never defame and denounce our religious leader, the Dalai Lama".
On 14 April 2008, the PAP forces ransacked the residences of monks of Tsang Monastery in Kawasumdo County(Ch: Thunde Xian), Tsolho "TAP" Qinghai Province, confiscated pictures of the Dalai Lama.
On 21 April, Dorjee Tsering, Lhasa City Mayor, has told that the "Patriotic education" campaign will be a standard litmus test for the party cadres.
With the launch of renewed "Patriotic education" campaign especially in the monastic institutions, which are originally set up for providing religious practitioners with a conducive environment for meditation on religious contents and for achieving inner peace, are being forcibly re-functioned to serve the Party as a production machinery of loyal political followers. Freedom of religion for Tibetan Buddhists would mean that authorities cease not only with their controls and restrictions in Tibetan Buddhist institutes but most importantly cease mixing up a party's ideological messages with religious traditions. Any attempts, the violent destructive ones well as the nearly unperceivable ones that operate through indoctrination and manipulation, any attempts to assimilate politics and religion into a political version of religion are gross downfall against a people's right to freedom of their religion. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) calls for the immediate end to the practice of conducting so-called "patriotic education" campaign in Tibet and allows the normal religious practice to flourish in the monastic institutions.