By Tenzin Dharpo
Tibetans circumambulating the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. Photo- Access Tibet Tour
DHARAMSHALA, Sept. 12: Retired Tibetan government officials in Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) who are found to be practicing Buddhism will be punished and dealt with, according to Human Rights Watch which cited a Chinese Communist Party notice issued just last month. The new dictum, similar to earlier notices, further restricts the freedom of religion inside occupied Tibet.
The notice issued in August 2019 directed all Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government and party offices in charge of retired government employees to submit a list by August 18 of any “retired personnel performing the kora,” the Tibetan practice of circumambulation around a sacred site or temple while reciting prayers or mantras.
While the notice explicitly mentions Kora, it applies to any visible religious activity such as visiting temples and monasteries, participating in prayer assemblies and other events related to religious activities, based upon similar bans in the past.
The notice states that “retired personnel performing kora are numerous and widespread,” and hence the instruction for officials “to earnestly carry out a self-inspection, and to conduct a survey to ascertain whether there is such a phenomenon”. Each office had to “submit a written personnel name list and suggestions for sanctions” by 12:30 p.m. on August 18 after which those on the list would be punished.
Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, said, “Chinese government authorities are relentless in their quest to control all aspects of Tibetans’ religious practices. Even those who spent their lives in service to the government aren’t spared.”
Similar bans were imposed as far back as 1994 and in 2012 where TAR authorities punished several thousand Tibetans, including numerous retired government workers, by temporarily detaining them and subjecting them to “re-education” after they travelled to India on pilgrimage to attend religious teachings by the Dalai Lama, the international Watch Dog said.
“Time and again China’s authorities make a mockery of their own claims to respect religious freedom. The government should immediately reverse its campaign to punish people for exercising their fundamental rights,” Richardson added.