Tibet’s top Party official has called for Chinese red flags to be displayed on all Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, in a statement made today in Lhasa reported in the Chinese media.
This follows a call for monasteries and nunneries to become centers for propaganda made by Tibet Autonomous Region Party chief Chen Quanguo last week. The Party Secretary’s comments are in the context of a strategy by the Beijing leadership to intensify CCP presence and control across Tibet, following the unrest that swept across the plateau from 2008 onwards. This has led to a more pervasive and systematic approach to ‘patriotic education’ and a dramatic increase in work teams and Party cadres in rural and urban areas. The Chinese government casts loyalty to the Dalai Lama and religious faith as obstacles to its political objectives in Tibetan areas.
Bhuchung Tsering, Vice President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said: “While China continues to tell the world that Tibetans enjoy religious freedom and autonomy, its top official in Lhasa is engaged in an ideological campaign to turn Tibetan monasteries into “patriotic” centers, by demanding, among other things, that monasteries fly the PRC national flag. This violates Tibetan religious tradition, and is but the latest example of the depth of ideological control that the Chinese Communist Party is exercising in the Tibetan homeland. Democratic governments and international institutions should condemn this blatant violation of religious freedom; not doing so will continue to bolster the hardliners in Beijing and will only fuel resentment among Tibetans. It is notable that a similar attempt to compel Tibetans to raise the national flag in Driru county in 2014 ended in unrest and a violent crackdown.”
An article in the Chinese state media today cited the head of the monastery management committee at the holy Jokhang temple in Lhasa saying that almost all monasteries have been displaying the Chinese national flag, with ‘national leaders’ portraits visible in the clergies rooms’ (Global Times, from a Tibet Daily article, April 8).
The Chinese Party state has moved from instilling an oppressive environment in monasteries, nunneries and lay society to one that can be more accurately characterized as totalitarian – an approach in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority, imposes a climate of fear, and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life.
The Chinese Communist Party and requires monks and nuns to ‘love their country’, in other words, recognize the authority of the Party state above all other allegiances. ‘Patriotism’ to the PRC is an official requisite for registration at monastic institutions and to be considered by the state as a ‘religious person’. This is an inversion of the priorities of a Buddhist practitioner, which would naturally be to their spiritual path and religion first.