By Tenzin Monlam
DHARAMSHALA, July 13: Coinciding with the second death Anniversary of Tulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, his niece Nyima Lhamo and Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, Commissioner, US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) testified before the US Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s hearing on Religious Freedom in Tibet yesterday in Washington DC.
Co-chaired by Congressman Jim McGovern and Congressman Randy Hultgren, the hearing also saw Arjia Rinpoche, Director, Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and Todd Stein, Former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues testify.
In welcoming them, the co-chairs expressed concern over the worsening condition of the already dire situation in Tibet with regards to human rights, limitations on travel, communications and religion. They also spoke on the succession of the Dalai Lama and the demolition of Larung Gar.
Nyima Lhamo in his testimony said, “I know there are many who continue to face the same fate as my uncle. So with a lot of difficulties and hardship, I escaped Tibet but for a very important reason - to share the suffering of my late uncle and that of other political prisoners in Tibet, who continue to suffer under the Chinese rule.”
She also spoke on two points – situation before the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and circumstances following his death – and on the six reasons to believe that Rinpoche was murdered in the prison.
Nyima Lhamo meets with ELyse Bauer Anderson, Staff Director of Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and other staffers
Arjia Rinpoche in his testimony spoke on how Chinese through out their occupation has destroyed Tibetan religion through various policies. He said, “During the Cultural Revolution, religion became even more a target for persecution. The campaign of ‘Breaking Four Olds’ was one to eradicate religion altogether. Almost all the monasteries were destroyed during this campaign. A very few ruined monasteries were kept only as a negative example to educate the masses on denouncing religion and feudalism,” Arjia Rinpoche said.
He also explained how in recent time, new Buddhist centers have avoided the use of term ‘monastery’ and adopted ‘camp institutes’ to avoid attention from the government, such as Larung Gar Buddhist Academy.
Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, Commissioner at USCIRF in his testimony shared his life story and the struggle of his family after coming into exile. He also spoke on prisoners of conscience including the 11th Panchen Lama and the 150 cases of self-immolations.
Todd Stein explained that when looking at Tibet, the distinction of ‘freedom of religion’ and ‘freedom of religious practice’ should be kept in mind.
“Chinese officials will show you monks in a monastery and say there is freedom of religion. But the monks may not be able to travel to further their spiritual education. Oral transmission of teachings from master to student is the life-blood of the religion. Severing this connection undermines the intellectual dynamism that is at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism,” he said while recommending 12 points for Congress with regards to the issue of the Dalai Lama’s succession.