Dalai Lama shrine

Although any image of the Dalai Lama is prohibited, many personal shrines in monasteries and private houses display photos and posters.

The United States Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF) today released its annual report, noting amid numerous other concerns about religious freedom in the People’s Republic of China that “In Tibetan Buddhist areas, religious freedom conditions may be worse now than at any time since the Commission’s inception.”

This unusually strong statement from the Commission, which was established in 1998 by an act of Congress, is supported by a wealth of information detailing instances of the Chinese authorities’ attempts to exert undue influence over Tibetan Buddhism, and the consequences for Tibetan monks, nuns and ordinary people – including children – if they are in any way suspected of ‘disloyalty’ to the Chinese Communist government.

The report states “The Chinese government’s active attempts to mold and control the traditional norms of Tibetan Buddhism have nurtured deep resentments among Tibetans,” and goes on to conclude “Chinese government actions and policies to suppress peaceful religious activity in Tibetan areas played a primary role in stoking last year’s demonstrations there.”

The section of the report on China also details restrictions on the practice of Islam in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (East Turkistan) including the banning in some of areas on anyone under the age of 30 entering a Mosque; restrictions on the practice of Christianity throughout all of China including the ongoing detention of numerous Christian clergy and laypeople; and continuing occurrences of deaths in detention of people held in connection with their adherence to Falun Gong. The report also notes the growing role of some lawyers in trying to defend people detained in connection with practicing their rights to religious freedom, and notes that these lawyers “have been harassed, beaten, threatened, disappeared, or have lost their legal licenses over the past year.”

The report, which reviews developments in the realm of religious freedoms around the world over the past year, recommends that China be designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for the sustained and egregious violations of religious freedoms. Other countries recommended by the report for CPC status include Burma (Myanmar), North Korea and Sudan.

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet said: “This report should be read in Beijing, where decisions are routinely made to employ force rather than facts in ruling Tibet. The key to stability in Tibet is understanding the Tibetan Buddhist identity and the profound devotion of the Tibetan people to the Dalai Lama.”

The section of the USCIRF report on China finishes with numerous recommendations for the US government, including the use of sanctions “or some other commensurate action” against targeted agencies or individuals, and to “cease the practice of prior Administrations of relying on ‘pre-existing sanctions’ that do not address specific religious freedom issues.”

The US government is also urged in the report’s recommendations to “promptly appoint a Special Coordinator on Tibetan issues at the State Department in order to press Beijing to end the criminalization of peaceful advocacy in Tibet.”

The full report is available on the USCIRF website at www.uscirf.gov.