China continues harassment of Tibetan Buddhists: Hillary

The US releases the annual State Department Report on Religious Freedom.

Washington: China continues harassment of Tibetan Buddhists and such infringements on religious freedom "strain" bonds that back democratic societies, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

"We received reports from China of government harassment of Tibetan Buddhists, house-church Christians and Uighur Muslims," Hillary said in her opening remarks during the release of the annual State Department Report on Religious Freedom.

"And several European countries have placed harsh restrictions on religious expression. These infringements on religious freedom strain the bonds that sustain democratic societies," she said.

In China one continues to see restrictions on the Uighur population in Shenzhen, on the Tibetan Buddhist community, and other restrictions on religious freedom, including on the unauthorised house churches, Christian churches, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human
Rights and Labour, Michael Posner, said.

Eight countries including China have been designated as countries of particular concern, Posner said. Those eight countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan, he said.

According to the annual State Department report, in the last one year, the level of religious repression in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas remained high, especially around major religious holidays and sensitive anniversaries.

"The government remained wary of Tibetan Buddhism and the central role traditionally played by the Dalai Lama and other prominent Tibetan Buddhist leaders.”

"The heads of the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism--including the Karmapa, Sakya Trizin, Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, and Gyalwa Menri Trizin--all reside in exile and maintain close ties with the Dalai Lama.
Chinese authorities often associated Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with pro-independence activism," the report said.

Government control over religious practice and the day-to-day management of monasteries and other religious institutions continued to be extraordinarily tight since the spring 2008 outbreak of widespread protests and unrest in Tibetan regions, it said.

Monks and nuns reported that government restrictions continued to interfere with their ability to carry out the teaching and practice of Tibetan Buddhist religious traditions, the report said.

These restrictions included forcing monks and nuns to undergo extensive "patriotic education" in monasteries and nunneries that included significant amounts of "legal education" which detracted from religious studies, it said.

Monks and nuns fled from their monasteries and nunneries because they faced expulsion for refusing to comply with the education sessions.

Overall numbers of monks and nuns in monasteries and nunneries remained at significantly lower levels than pre-March 2008.

"The government continued to blame the Dalai Lama publicly for instigating the March 2008 unrest and repeatedly stated that his successor would have to be approved by the government.”

"The newly appointed TAR governor described the Dalai Lama as `the most important cause of instability in Tibet`," the State Department report said.

US diplomatic personnel visited the TAR five times during the reporting period, but TAR officials often restricted the personnel’s ability to talk openly with persons in Tibetan areas, it said.

"The US government continued to urge government leaders to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives and to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to their effect on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods, as well as the environment," the report said.