By Phuntsok Yangchen
DHARAMSHALA, July 2014: The United States has named China among the eight “countries of particular concern” for severe violations of religious freedom in a new report released by U.S. Department of State.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its 2013 Annual Report released on Monday, said that Chinese government’s respect for and protection of Tibetan religious freedom were “poor” with widespread official interference in religious practice in Tibetan monasteries and nunneries.
“General affairs in TAR monasteries, which in the past had been managed primarily by monks, are now overseen by Monastery Management Committees (MMCs) and Monastic Government Working Groups (MGWGs), both of which are composed primarily of government officials and CCP members, together with a few carefully selected monks,” the report says.
The report further noted that despite China’s constitution which ensures “freedom of religious belief”; the government restricted its citizen from religious practice and religious freedom.
It further stressed that Tibetan monks and nuns were forced to participate in “Patriotic education” and “Legal education” and forced denunciations of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
This has significantly impacted on the quality of monastic education and a dipping number of monks and nuns in various monasteries and nunneries, the report said. a
The Chinese government, said the report, maintains that the authority of recognition of the reincarnation of Tibetan lamas will lie solely with them and that no foreign organization or individual may interfere in the selection process.
The U.S. government also urged the Chinese government to respect religious freedom and engage in a constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.
The report also raises concern about the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Rinpoche Gedun Choekyi Nyima. Chinese government abducted Panchen Lama, when he was only six years old, shortly after he was recognized by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as the rightful incarnate of the Panchen Lama. Even after 19 years in custody, the Chinese authorities have refused to provide any verifiable information or proof of the physical and mental well being of the 11th Panchen Lama.
A number of Tibetans have self-immolated and were jailed in Tibet for their involvement in religious activities, according to the report. In 2013, 26 Tibetans have set themselves on fire calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“An unknown number of Tibetans were detained, arrested, and/or sentenced as a result of their religious activity. Many prisoners were held in extrajudicial reeducation through labor (RTL) prisons and never appeared in public court,” said the report.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent federal advisory body created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses.