Chinese authorities in Nedong County, Lhoka, central Tibet holding ‘patriotic education’ campaign for representatives of different monasteries at Dhargyeling Monastery in Nedong on On June 4, 2013. (Photo/sn.xzsnw.com)
DHARAMSHALA, June 9: In a move aimed at further tightening the noose around Tibetan religious institutions, the Chinese government has implemented a new regulation that gives Beijing the authority to approve the appointment of Buddhist religious instructors in Tibetan monasteries and nunneries.
The regulation called “Measures to determine qualification and employment of religious instructors in Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries” was published on December 3, 2012 after its approval during the second session of the eighth council of Buddhist Association of China held on November 25, 2012.
Dharamshala based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in a report last week said the new measure has been adopted to “appoint political monks in guise of spiritual teachers.”
“The new regulations controlling who may be a religious instructor at Buddhist monasteries in Tibet is a continuation of the Chinese policy of curtailing freedom of religion in Tibet,” TCHRD said. “The new regulations are a dramatic escalation because they are designed to undermine the ability of monasteries to pass on to younger generations thousands of years of Tibetan Buddhist teachings that have not been politicised and manipulated by the Chinese government.”
Under the regulation, all religious instructors at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries must be legally registered to continue teaching Buddhist scriptures (Article 2) and must meet mandatory credentials, including support for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system, patriotism, discipline, safeguard national unity, and uphold religious and social harmony [Article 4 (ii)].
Article 5 of the regulation requires candidates to be nominated and recommended by Monastery Management Committees, following which they will then be assessed and reviewed first at the county level Buddhist Association of China office. Another assessment and screening of the credentials of the candidates will be done at the prefecture level of BAC following which shortlisted candidates must sit for an examination administered by the same office. The BAC, founded in 1953 to place Buddhism under the leadership of the Communist Party, strictly limits Buddhist activity and controls the monastic institutions.
The regulation stipulates that the appointment of religious instructors can last no more than five years after which they must apply for renewed employment and undergo the same process of getting clearance and approval from the relevant BAC offices and local religious affairs departments.
The duties of religious instructors as listed in the regulation says qualified religious instructors should promote national policies and regulations to guide the masses of believers, consciously safeguard national unification, ethnic unity and social stability, and oppose separation [Article 11 (iv)].
Under chapter four of the regulation titled “Penalties,” religious instructors “who violate the employment agreement or do not perform their duties” could face verbal exhortation [or political education classes], suspension of employment, dismissal, and withdrawal of all rights and privileges of a religious instructor (Article 15).
Some of the activities that may merit immediate dismissal or suspension from employment as enumerated in Article 15, include failure to follow orders of monastery management committees; acting on the instigation of overseas outfits and private individuals; spreading separatist ideas and inciting the monks and nuns, as well as lay believers promoting illegal criminal behavior; engaging in activities to destroy ethnic unity and social stability; and for splitting the Chinese motherland.
TCHRD noted that religious freedom in Tibet over the years has “changed for the worse,” particularly in recent years after the implementation of “a systematic, widespread campaign to eliminate any signs of opposition against the party and the government.”
“Through attrition, this policy will ultimately decrease the number of truly qualified Buddhist teachers and diminishes the transmission of Tibetan Buddhist culture, and language throughout Tibet,” TCHRD said.