Religious Repression in Tibet

08 Oct, 1999    ·   272

Rahul Arun argues that the “mono culture of communism” continues apace in China amidst mixed farming of diverse ideologies worldwide

China 's policy of religious repression in Tibet derives justification from Marxist - Leninist perspective on religion.  Marx considered the criticism of religion as the premise of all criticism.  He believed that to abolish religion as the illusory happiness of people is to demand their real happiness.  His successor Lenin regarded religion as a 'spiritual booze' in which the slaves of capital drown their human image.



From China 's perspective, Tibet 's strong religious traditions fuel three persistent nuisances.  Firstly, Tibet 's religious strength isclosely linked with its defiant independence movement: underground political groups have burgeoned in Tibet 's monasteries andnunneries; and Tibetan monks and nuns fill Tibet 's Chinese-administered prisons and detention centres, making up 68.83 percent of Tibetan known current political prisoners.  Secondly, Tibet 's Buddhist religion unifies and defines the Tibetans as a distinct people' distinct in particular from Communist China and its coercive strategies to "unite the Motherland".  Thirdly, it constitutes an obstacle to China 's economic "development" of the region: in November 1995, in an article in China 's official newspaper, monks were attacked for "not contributing to economic growth".



On April 28, 1996, China 's national "Strike Hard" campaign was launched inside Tibet .  While "Strike Hard" official aim was to crack down on general crime and corruption, in Tibet the campaign was targeted at "splitists" who supported Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama.  An integral part of "Strike Hard" in Tibet is its attendant "re-education" drive which has



drastically suppressed religious freedom in monastic institutions.  Chinese "work-teams" have been sent into monasteries and nunneries in all parts of Tibet to forcefully "re-educate" monks and nuns in how to think and act.  Those who resist.   Those who resist face punishment in the form of expulsion or arrest.



In November 1996, follo2wing a week-long "extraordinary meeting" of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, the TibetCentral Committee launched a "Last Battle" against the Dalai Lama, aimed at eradicating any vestiges of the exiled spiritual leader's influence from all levels of society.  The committee's report stipulated that the "anti-splitist" campaign in Tibet , already launched in the monasteries in 1996, must be broadened to the lay community.



Suggested measures included the adoption of "administrative measures to resolve the uncontrolled proliferation of religious festivals and shrines" and the strengthening of  controls over daily life such as arts and literature to ensure that they fulfil the socialist role of "serving the people" rather than propagating "spiritual garbage".  The committee vowed to deal severely with



any monks or nuns "whose religious activities or superstitions affect industrial production or daily life" and, identifying Tibetan youth as the key battleground, called on every school "to push socialist teachings and focus on political and ideological education."



It is not only the Dalai Lama who is under attack by Chinese authorities, but Buddhism itself.  In July 1997, in a radical re-writing of a history that goes back centuries, Tibet 's top leader, "TAR" Party Secretary Chen Kuiyuan, declared that "Buddhism is a foreign culture" and claimed the idea that Tibetan culture is Buddhist - to be "totally absurd". China regularly claims that the Tibetan people's human rights are being observed and that they do enjoy religious freedom.  It is common for visitors to Tibet to be guided through well-populated monasteries and nunneries full of smiling monks and nuns worshipping and studying with apparent freedom.  Monks and nuns who have fled into exile testify that such visits are carefully pre-arranged by Chinese authorities; religious artefacts previously confiscated are again displayed and the monks and nuns are thoroughly briefed on the consequences of failing to display a happy front to the foreign visitors.



The 1959 and 1960 International commission of jurists reports identified religious beliefs as the primary criterion used by China for repression against Tibetans.  The report concluded that the “Chinese were determined to use all methods at their disposal to eliminate religious beliefs and substitute Communist doctrines”.  The ICJ Committee cited evidence of “the deliberate killings of lamas and leading monks, widespread arrests of religious persons and their enslavement into forced labour and the ransacking and destruction of monasteries.  During the cultural revolution, virtually all religious practice was banned. Monks and Nuns were forced to copulate in public and marry.



What is clear is that the monolithic Chinese state regards any assertions of political, religious and cultural aspirations of masses as an effort to split the motherland through those means and that there is no scope for any other flower to bloom in China except the dictatorial Communist state.  The “mono culture of communism” continues apace in China amidst “mixed farming of diverse ideologies worldwide.