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China's new restrictions on Tibetan religion and identity PDF Print E-mail
[21 May 2015] In recent months, China has further restricted Tibetans' rights to freedom of expression and religion. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, Chinas top official has announced measures to ensure monks and nuns understand the party and governments policies and social progress. In the Tibetan region of Malho, Qinghai province, 20 rules have been issued to deal with "splittism" which criminalise ordinary religious and secular activities.

Page Index:
New patriotic re-education drive in Tibet Autonomous Region
New regulations in Rebkong criminalise religious activities
Rebkong: Twenty illegal activities related to Tibet independence

New patriotic re-education drive in Tibet Autonomous Region
Chinese flag on Jokhang
Chinas top official in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Chen Quanguo, has announced that Tibetan monks and nuns and their activities, are to be scrutinised more closely, including new measures to educate themselves in patriotism. The announcement, which included a call for all monasteries to install Chinese national flags, was reported in early April in Chinese state media. (Pictured right: the Chinese flag on the Jokhang temple in Lhasa.)

Quanguo stressed that 1,700 religious institutions and 46,000 monks and nuns have to be viewed by the ruling Communist Party as "friends" of the State. According to Reuters, Chen said, Let the monks and nuns in the temples and monasteries have a personal feeling of the party and government's care and warmth.

As well as the installation of Chinese flags at all monasteries and nunnersies in the TAR, the new drive will also see the installation of radios, televisions, phones, newspapers and reading rooms in monasteries, in order to allow monks and nuns to listen to the party's words and follow the party's path, according to Chen.

Chen QuanguoChen Quanguo (pictured right speaking at a Communist Party Conference) has spoken out previously on stamping out the Dalai Lamas influence in Tibet. In 2013 he vowed to wipe out the Dalai Lamas voice, declaring he would not be seen or heard in the region.

Patriotic re-education is a tool used by the Chinese authorities in their attempt to eradicate support and loyalty to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile and encourage allegiance to the Chinese state. The first major campaign was launched in 1996 and was known as the Strike Hard campaign. Between 1996 and 1998, nearly 10,000 monks and nuns were expelled from their monastic institutions, and 500 arrested.

The current patriotic re-education campaign began in 2006, and extended its influence to wider Tibetan society, including schools. The campaign intensified following widespread protests in the region in 2008. Government work teams were permanently stationed in monasteries for surveillance and to carry out re-education campaigns. More recently these teams have begun to manage the daily activities of the monasteries, restricting religious practices and expelling or arresting those who do not comply with Party regulations.

China's interference with religious affairs even extends to reincarnation, as all reincarnated lamas must register with the Chinese State, and have their reincarnations approved by the government.

Further reading:

Reuters: Tibet party boss says temples must be propaganda centres
AFP (in Guardian): China to test Tibetan monks and nuns for patriotism
ICT: Tibets Party boss calls for all monasteries to fly the red flag

New regulations in Rebkong criminalise religious activities

Ju KezhongA new list of rules has been published in Rebkong county, eastern Tibet, covering religious and cultural activities that the Chinese authorities deem to be "splittist". The 20 rules were issued following a speech in February by Ju Kezhong (pictured right), the Communist Party Secretary of Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai province. (Rebkong county is located in Malho prefecture).

The rules extend the authorities' interpretation of "splittist activities", allowing criminal charges to be brought against everyday religious and secular activities. Included are previously banned acts such as displaying photos of the Dalai Lama, flying the Tibetan national flag, distributing "separatist" content and publicising information about protests. However, "splittism" can now also be afforded to the lighting of butter lamps, offering incense and even the saying of prayers. Also targeted are unofficial Tibetan language classes and non-sanctioned activities related to environmental protection and food safety.

International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), who first reported the new regulations, said, "The measures heighten the dangers for Tibetans in the area, who have sought to protect their cultural and religious identity and traditions with courage and resilience. Furthermore, they contravene Chinas own constitution and legal provisions meant to preserve and promote the distinct identity of groups such as the Tibetans."

Listed below are the 20 rules (translated from Tibetan into English by ICT):

Twenty illegal activities related to Tibet independence
1. Encouraging, talking up and glorifying extreme acts such as self-immolation.

2. Flying Tibet independence flag, putting up posters, spreading publicity materials and promoting discussion.

3. Writing, producing, selling and distributing books, drawings, audio-visual recordings dealing with ethnic separatism and ethnic extremist thoughts.

4. Establishing illegal organizations and undertaking illegal activities under the pretext of protecting the mother tongue, environmental protection, literacy classes etc.

5. Organizing illegal assemblies and public demonstrations using the excuses of linguistic equality, food safety, protecting wildlife etc. and establishing, leading or inciting any other kinds of illegal activities.

6. Downloading messages, images or video with Tibet Independence content from QQ, Wechat, etc., and listening, watching and sharing them. Or, even if electronic content that is harmful to the unity of nationalities, spreading of rumours, disruption of social order, creation of contradictions between nationalities, or issues related to Tibetan independence are not communicated, but keeping them on mobile phone or computer without deleting them, and always letting others know and look at them.

7. Colluding with separatist forces abroad, sending communications of any kind to foreign hostile forces.

8. Listening to and watching radio and TV programs by hostile foreign forces talking up Tibet Independence thoughts.

9. Going to foreign countries and illegally visiting foreign countries and participating in religious activities of any kind there.

10. Displaying photos of the 14th Dalai Lama and images of Tibet Independence at public gatherings.

11. Showing images or playing recordings with Tibet Independence content in vehicles and other transportation facilities.

12. Making incense offering, reciting prayers, sparing the lives of animals or lighting butter lamps as prayers for the self-immolators or greeting their family members.

13. Collecting donations for foreign ethnic separatist forces or individuals, or forming organizations to collect donations.

14. Promoting discussion of Tibet Independence and ethnic extremist ideology in schools.

15. Using the powers of religion, philosophy or genealogy to interfere in legal and civil administration and social work, and terrorizing government officials, or creating resentment and hostility towards them, under the pretext of nationality affairs.

16. Cultivating links with foreign ethnic separatist forces, contravening decisions on social stability maintenance work in connection with Tibet Independence, and forcing others or forming organizations to oppose the government.

17. Undertaking prayer activities for the 14th Dalai Lama on the occasion of a festival, or during a sensitive period, at a monastery or in a public place, inciting others or forming an organization to promote such activities.

18. Using religious and traditional activities to incite others, or to form organizations to arrange public gatherings to offer incense, butter lamps and prayers to the 14th Dalai Lama.

19. Maliciously fabricating normal religious activities or different public activities and associating them with messages and imagery relating to Tibet Independence, publicizing, creating rumours, and misrepresenting such things as propaganda study, assisted study for key contact targets, the comprehensive rectification of key townships and towns (villages and monasteries), rectification of illegal organizations and prosecution of individuals who break laws and regulations, and communicating them abroad and providing hostile forces with material for their rants.

20. Interfering, in accord with infiltration of the foreign Tibet Independence separatist movement, with other people enjoying festivals, or weddings or celebrations, forcing to Speak pure Tibetan, [or] obstructing the killing or selling of livestock [policy], forcibly liberating [the animals] life, [or] using such pretexts as environmental protection to disrupt social order.

Further reading:

ICT: Praying and lighting butter-lamps for Dalai Lama illegal: new regulations in Rebkong

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