China conducts major crackdowns on "illegal" religious activities in Tibet?

The so-called "Religious work conference" was held in Lhasa, Capital of Tibet, on April 8, 2022. Photo: WeChat

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Dharamshala — China has conducted major crackdowns on religious freedom in all parts of Tibet, continued over the years, and 269 Tibetan people were placed under investigation for allegedly involving in so-called "illegal spiritual practices", and those arrested may face prison terms ranging from 5 to 17 years.

The Chinese government has a long history of cracking down on religious freedom since China's illegal occupation of Tibet in 1949, with cultural genocide, severe persecution, arbitrary arrests, heavy imprisonments, and even torturing practitioners to death, who openly or secretly practiced their religious beliefs or had spiritual faith in His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

China's public security Bureau (PSB) authorities have conducted major crackdowns on so-called "illegal spiritual practices" and "relevant illegal activities", with 77 key cases detected and 269 individuals criminally dealt with, in accordance with the law since 2018, according to reports by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-controlled media outlets, including "Global Times", a CCP paramount mouthpiece, on March 25, 2024.

Chinese authorities in Ngaba County areas, eastern Tibet, forced all Tibetans who work in different levels of public service to sign a pledge on January 22, 2024: 'not to believe in religion, not to participate in religious activities, never to promote or spread religious teachings anywhere, and always to listen to the Chinese Communist Party, be grateful to the Party, follow the Party'.

Tibetan officials, particularly those who are communist party members, are informed that they are strictly prohibited from having spiritual faith, beliefs, or engaging in religious practices, or visiting monasteries for spiritual purposes. Nor are their children allowed to join religious institutions, including Buddhist monasteries, and study Buddhism there. This is not the first time, in recent years, intensified targeting on Tibetan people's practicing, learning, and preservations of their cultural heritage, sociopolitical history, linguistic identity, particularly before any special spiritual events such as Shoton Festival, or so-called "sensitive" anniversaries such as March 10th, National Uprising Day of Tibet.

Similar crackdowns were also openly taken place in most parts of Tibet in 2023, including towns and cities, especially in Lhasa, the Capital of Tibet, before March 10th, by placing posters, sending notices to individuals, and announcing on government WeChat accounts, as well as increasing patrols and surveillance.

Under the "guidance of General Secretary Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era," thoroughly study and implement Xi's important expositions on religious work, completely, accurately, and comprehensively implement the party's strategy for governing Tibet in the new era, the Chinese media reports after the so-called "Religious work conference" was held in Lhasa, Capital of Tibet, on April 8, 2022, indicating intensified control over religious freedom in Tibet.

Therefore, Tibetans inside Tibet believe that when the "Sick man of Asia" became owners of the communist authoritarian regime in China, they treat every aspect or element related to national cultural heritage, history, and linguistic identity of Tibet as a total threat to their autocratic rule.

Tibetan people also believe that the purposes of these practices oppose Tibetan Buddhism, intentionally aimed to cut off the people of Tibet from their beliefs, religious practices, and spiritual teachers, especially their beloved leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

If the Chinese authorities catch any Tibetan officials and their children visiting or attending monasteries for spiritual purposes or engaging in religious practices, they will remove them from their positions and even lose their jobs, depending on the circumstances. In the worst-case scenario, they may face heavy jail terms, resulting in them having no other choice but to unwillingly sign the "pledge book for party members and cadres do not believe in religion."

The one thing China does not want you to know:

Over the past 70 decades, there has been ongoing political repression, social discrimination, economic marginalization, environmental destruction, and cultural assimilation, particularly due to Chinese migration to Tibet, which is fueling intense resentment among the people of occupied Tibet.

The communist-totalitarian state of China began its invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines have been looted or decimated, resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.

Until 1949, Tibet was an independent Buddhist nation in the Himalayas, which had little contact with the rest of the world. It existed as a rich cultural storehouse of the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings of Buddhism. Religion was a unifying theme among the Tibetans, as was their own language, literature, art, and worldview developed by living at high altitudes, under harsh conditions, in a balance with their environment.