By Tenzin Zompa
DHARAMSHALA, JUNE 2: The U.S. State department’s 2018 International Religious Freedom Report highlights China’s widespread interference and restrictions on the religious freedom and practices of the Tibetan people including the government’s stringent control on religious gatherings, monasteries and nunneries and tight control over the monks and nuns’ education.
The report stated, “The constitution of the People’s Republic of China states that citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief” but limits protections for religious practice to “normal religious activities” without defining “normal.” The report also noted cases of forced disappearance, physical abuse, prolonged detention without trial, and arrests of individuals due to their religious practices. The missing report of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, whose whereabouts have been questioned for more than two decades has also been mentioned in this year’s report.
The report also makes mention of the self-immolations as a means of protest against the repressive government policies and that at least six have occurred in the past year. It cited the destruction of important Buddhist centres with many students being forced to participate in the “Re-education of patriotism” activity. It also reported increased restriction around politically sensitive events and religious anniversaries such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday in Tibet.
The report also discussed the travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese government to hinder Tibetan monks and nuns to attend religious ceremonies and pilgrimages overseas, the societal discrimination endured by ethnic Tibetans when seeking employment or engaging in business, defaming His Holiness the Dalai Lama and also preventing Tibetans from showing respect for him.
“The United States will not stand by as spectators,” Secretary Pompeo said during the press briefing at the State Department on Tuesday to introduce the latest annual international religious freedom report. “We will get in the ring and stand in solidarity with every individual who seeks to enjoy their most fundamental of human rights.”