Dharamshala — China has denied criticism that thousands of Tibetans were forcibly barred from taking part in the Kalachakra prayer event in Bodh Gaya of India, saying that the entire event is as 'a political tool' to propagate ideas of 'hating' China.
Talking to Chinese state-run media 'Global Times', Zhu Weiqun, so called chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said, "Taking advantage of the presence of the Dalai Lama, the Kalachakra (wheel of time) teachings have inveigled Tibetans into illegally going abroad over the last decade."
Thousands of pilgrims from Tibet, mostly from Kham and Amdo provinces who had hoped to attend have been forced to return home, though, while others have been blocked from leaving Tibet. The 34th Kalachakra initiation is being underway at Bodh Gaya with His Holiness the Dalai Lama presiding over the religious rituals. More than 100,000 of pilgrims people from 85 are in attendance. The organisers also say more pilgrims still arriving.
'Nearly 7,000 of pilgrims from Tibetan-populated areas of western China who had hoped to attend have been forced to return home, though, while others have been blocked from leaving China,' Karma Gelek Yuthok and Kalon Choekyong Wangchuk, chairman and vice-chairman of the Kalachakra organising committee said, during a media briefing at Bodhgaya in Bihar State, India, on December 5, 2017.
"It is extremely unfortunate and sad that so many Tibetans who wanted to attend could not come, and that many others who were able to come have had to return to Tibet under strict deadlines," Karma Gelek said, adding: "These total nearly 7,000," Gelek said, adding, "This raises serious questions concerning China's claim that it allows religious freedom."
In a bid to reduce attendance at this year's ceremony, Chinese officials allegedly began to confiscate the passports of Tibetans in November, at the same time ordering Tibetans already present in India and Nepal to return home. Many had been threatened that their families would be harmed if they failed to return to Tibet, sources told TPI in earlier reports.
Denying the number of pilgrims from China is far less than "thousands", Xu Zhitao, deputy director of the bureau of the Tibet question at the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said there are pilgrims from China attending the ceremony who hold Chinese passports.
"Therefore, the government by no means threatened them to return, although the government does not encourage them to attend the ritual," Xu told the Global Times. Xu pointed out that the ritual, organised by the Tibetan "government-in-exile certainly involves politics".
"Considering that the large-scale ritual needs years of preparation, the India-based ceremony frequently degenerates into a political tool," Zhu said,. He said that the organising committee has made use of the occasion and the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama to propagate ideas of "hating the Chinese government". The organising committee also attempted to establish relations with the Tibetans from China through the ceremony, he said.
"The number of Tibetans attending the ritual decreased dramatically in recent years after the local governments clarified to local Tibetans that the ritual is about separatism, and also due to tightened border control," Zhu claimed. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist seeking to split Tibet from China.
News reports also stated that Chinese authorities have confiscated many Tibetans' passports since November 2016. Further, Nepali media also alleged that China also imposed a temporary travel restriction against its citizens visiting Nepal and "asked its travel agencies and airlines to cancel all travel plans and bookings made until January 10, with immediate effect".
China has continued to deny such reports. Xu Zhitao, deputy director of the bureau of the Tibet question at the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, told the Global Times, "The government by no means threatened them into returning, although the government does not encourage them to attend the ritual."
In excerpts of a speech on religious policy recently carried by the state-run 'Tibet Daily', Communist Party chief in Tibet Autonomous Region, Wu Yingjie said Tibetan Buddhism had a fine tradition of patriotism and had made important contributions to maintaining national unity.
But Tibetan Buddhism needs to march with the times, and at the same time as passing down and teaching its traditional precepts it needs to put more focus on teachings that "benefit social harmony and move with the times", Wu said, adding: "The party's leadership work over religion can only strengthen and not weaken."
The recent bans are not the first time China has attempted to do it openly, in 2012 hundreds of Tibetans who attended an important Buddhist ceremony in India have been detained without charge by Chinese security officers on their return to Tibet, according to family members and friends living in exile in India, international human rights groups and officials with the Tibetan exile government.
Many of the pilgrims are elderly and have been detained for more than two months in Tibet. The detainees are being severely interrogated and undergoing patriotic re-education classes, and have been ordered to denounce their spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who presided over the Kalachakra initiation. The detainees are being held at hotels, schools and military training centers or bases; some are being forced to pay for their lodging and meals.
In 1959, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama along with thousands of others escaped to India, where he was given political asylum. The spiritual leader has set up a government and rebuilt monasteries where masters pass on their teachings to young monks. Tibetans in exile have succeeded in gradually rebuilding their monasteries, preserving their culture, restructuring their society and keeping it alive, in spite of the extremely difficult circumstances.
Tibet was invaded by Communist China in 1949. Since that time, over 1.2 million out of 6 million Tibetans have been killed, over 6000 monasteries have been destroyed— the acts of murder, rape and arbitrary imprisonment, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment were inflicted on the Tibetans inside Tibet, Beijing calls a "peaceful liberation".