By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 3: Tibetan monks and nuns are being forced to act as propagandists for the Chinese government and the ruling communist party in occupied Tibet, a leading rights group said in their new report.
Human Rights Watch on October 30 said that in line with China’s attempt at ‘Sinicization of Religion’ in Tibet, Beijing is compelling selected monastics in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) to undergo political training designed to create a new corps of Buddhist teachers proficient in state ideology.
China which introduced the “Four Standards” policy in TAR earlier this year, demands that monastics in occupied Tibet must demonstrate “political reliability,” “moral integrity capable of impressing the public,” willingness to “play an active role at critical moments” and competence in Buddhist studies.
“Chinese authorities have always placed heavy constraints on religious freedom, especially in Tibetan and other minority regions. Compelling Tibetan monks and nuns to be propagandists for the Communist Party takes government intrusion in religion to abhorrent new levels,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.
The rights group, citing Chinese state media also said that select group of Tibetan monks and nuns attended a three-day training session from May 31 to June 2, “to strengthen their political beliefs,” and also training them to conduct the campaign in their own monasteries and communities. HRW also said that similar trainings in September 2016, which appears to have been a pilot program, involved 250 participants.
The ‘sinicization of religion’ drive approved by the incumbent Chinese President Xi Jinping in his first term although pursued in an aggressive fashion is not new. Policies executed in 1996 saw monastics undergo repeated rounds of “patriotic education” which lasted for months. The re-education sessions among other things required Tibetans to denounce the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.
“Authorities’ injection of political dogma into religious curriculum and new requirements that monastics indoctrinate one another reflect Beijing’s hostility to the freedom of religious belief,” Richardson said.