In what could be termed a scathing criticism of Chinese high handedness in Tibet the US State Department in its 13th Annual International Religious Freedom Report says that the Chinese constitution protects religious freedom for all citizens but, in practice, the government generally enforces other laws and policies that restrict religious freedom. The report indirectly says that the situation in Tibet is particularly disturbing. The situation can be imagined from the fact that in the 44 page, 16,20o plus words’ report, Tibet has been mentioned almost 140 times.
Following is the text of the Tibet section of the Religious Freedom Report on China. We have highlighted in bold and underlined parts of the report which needs to be seen carefully.
The Text of US Religious Freedom Report on Tibet
The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAPs) and counties in other provinces, as part of the People’s Republic of China. The Department of State follows these designations in its reporting. The United States continues to be concerned for the preservation and development of the Tibetan people’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage and the protection of their fundamental human rights.
The constitution (read Chinese) protects religious freedom for all citizens but, in practice, the government generally enforced other laws and policies that restrict religious freedom. The constitution states that Chinese citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief.” It bans the state, public organizations, and individuals from compelling citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion. The constitution protects “normal religious activities” but does not define “normal.”
The government’s level of respect for religious freedom remained poor in the TAR (read Tibet Autonomous Region) and other Tibetan areas. Repression was severe, particularly during “sensitive periods” such as the Shanghai World Expo or the Asian Games in Guangzhou. The government continued to blame the Dalai Lama publicly for instigating the March 2008 unrest and repeatedly stated that all reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist lamas would have to be approved by the government. Chinese authorities often associated Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with pro-independence activism; disagreement with government strictures on religious practice and education are often assumed to be simply expression of separatist attitudes. Control over religious practice and the day-to-day management of monasteries and other religious institutions continued to be extraordinarily tight. 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.
Throughout the year, authorities limited the ability of monks from outside the Yushu TAP in Qinghai Province to travel to areas to assist in earthquake relief reconstruction. There were reports that large religious gatherings for earthquake victims were not permitted so as to “protect social order.”
During the reporting period, residents continued to face societal discrimination, including, for example, being denied rooms at hotels in large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu, during the 2010 Shanghai World Expo (April 30 to October 31, 2010).
The U.S. government encouraged the government and local authorities to respect religious freedom and allow Tibetans to preserve and develop their religious traditions. U.S. diplomatic personnel visited the TAR twice during the reporting period. TAR officials restricted U.S. diplomatic personnel’s ability to talk openly with persons in Tibetan areas. The U.S. government protested religious persecution and discrimination, discussed individual cases with the authorities, and requested further information about specific incidents. U.S. government officials continued to urge government leaders to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives and address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to their effect on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods, as well as the environment.
Section I. Religious Demography
Tibetan areas total 871,649 square miles, nearly one quarter of the territory of the country. According to recent official estimates, the ethnic Tibetan population within the TAR was approximately 2.7 million and outside the TAR was an estimated 2.9 million. Most of these ethnic Tibetans reside in Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. Well over 500,000 non-Tibetans live in the TAR, including other minorities and large numbers of migrant workers who have lived in the TAR for several years but are not counted in the permanent population. Most ethnic Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, although a sizeable minority practices Bon, the related traditional Tibetan religion, and a very small minority practices Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Many Tibetan government officials and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members are religious believers, despite government and CCP prohibitions against officials practicing religion.
Other residents of traditionally Tibetan areas include ethnic Han Chinese, many of whom practice Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and or traditional folk religions; Hui Muslims; ethnic Tibetan Muslims; and Christians. Approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Muslims worship at mosques in the TAR. There is also a Catholic church with 560 members located in the traditionally Catholic community of Yanjing in the eastern TAR. Tsodruk, in Dechen TAP, Yunnan Province, is also home to a large Tibetan Catholic congregation. The TAR is home to a small number of Falun Gong adherents, as well as unregistered Christian churches.
According to the June 21, 2009 People’s Daily (the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party), there are 3,000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with 120,000 monks and nuns in the TAR and Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. The same source states that there are 1,789 monasteries with 46,000 monks and nuns in the TAR.
However, according to statistics collected by the China Tibetology Research Center, a CCP affiliated research institution, there are 1,535 monasteries in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.
The number of monks and nuns in monasteries and nunneries continued to fluctuate significantly, due in part to “patriotic education campaigns” and other political campaigns, as well as the practice of moving between monasteries for education. The widespread practice of monasteries accepting unregistered novices and other monks compounds the difficulty in estimating the true number of practicing Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns. Authorities in the TAR and other Tibetan areas tightened enforcement of longstanding regulations that forbid monasteries and nunneries from accepting individuals under the age of 18, hindering the traditional practice of sending young boys and girls to monasteries and nunneries for religious training. However, there were monks as young as eight years of age observed at some monasteries.
Many monks studied and worshiped within their monasteries and nunneries without being “registered” or obtaining an official monastic identification card issued by religious affairs authorities. Hence, two population figures exist for many monasteries and nunneries: the official number reflecting the number of monks allowed by the government, and the actual figure, which may be twice the official number or even higher and includes both registered and unregistered monks. The number of resident monks was less than the official figure in some monasteries which were placed under greater political pressure that included intensified patriotic education campaigns in 2008-2009. Some monks fled their monasteries to avoid being forced to denounce the Dalai Lama.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
Please refer to Appendix C in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the status of the government’s acceptance of international legal standards http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/appendices/index.htm
The constitution protects religious freedom for all citizens but, in practice, the government generally enforced other laws and policies that restrict religious freedom. The constitution states that Chinese citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief.” It bans the state, public organizations, and individuals from compelling citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion. The constitution protects “normal religious activities,” but does not define “normal.” The constitution states that religious bodies and affairs are not to be “subject to any foreign control.”
The government’s 2005 White Paper on Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities states, “Organs of self-government in autonomous areas, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and relevant laws, respect and guarantee the freedom of religious belief of ethnic minorities and safeguard all legal and normal religious activities of people of ethnic minorities.” Organs of self-government include governments of autonomous regions, prefectures, and counties.
At the national level, the CCP organization–The United Front Work Department (UFWD)–and the government unit–the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA)–with support from the various officially recognized Buddhist, Catholic, Islamic, and Protestant “patriotic religious associations” were responsible for developing religious management policies. Local branches of UFWD, SARA, and the Buddhist Association of China coordinated implementation of religious policies by Democratic Management Committees (DMCs) in monasteries. Regulations restricted leadership of DMCs to “politically reliable, patriotic, and devoted monks, nuns and government officials.” At some monasteries the government established police stations in the monasteries. The government also supported the development of the “3+1″ education model in some monasteries. Under this model, local village committees, family members, and DMCs ensure that monks and nuns cooperate with regular political education.
The last round of talks between officials from the UFWD and envoys of the Dalai Lama was in January 2010. As of 2007 approximately 615 Tibetan religious figures held positions in local National People’s Congresses (NPCs) and committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in the TAR. The CPPCC is a political advisory body that nominally serves to allow non-CCP delegates to participate in the administration of state affairs. Although CCP officials are not permitted to practice religion, Tibetan religious figures who hold government positions (for example on the local NPC or CPPCC) are permitted to practice Buddhism. The government-recognized 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, is the vice president of the Buddhist Association of China and a member of the CPPCC.
Rules and regulations provided a legal basis for government control over Tibetan religious traditions. The Management Measures on Reincarnation, issued by SARA, codified government control over the selection of Tibetan religious leaders, including reincarnate lamas. The regulations stipulate that city governments and higher political levels can deny the required permission for a lama to be recognized as a reincarnate, or “tulku.” Without official permission, the lama may not function as a “tulku” in a community. Provincial-level or higher governments must approve reincarnations, while the State Council reserves the right to deny the recognition of reincarnation of high lamas, often referred to by the Chinese term “Living Buddhas,” of “especially great influence.”
Regulations state that no foreign organization or individual can interfere in the selection of reincarnate lamas, and all reincarnate lamas must be reborn within the country. A registry of officially recognized reincarnated lamas was established by the government.
The TAR Implementation of the Religious Affairs Regulations (the Implementing Regulations), also issued by SARA, continued to assert state control over all aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, including religious groups, venues, and personnel. The TAR government also has the right under the Implementing Regulations to deny any individual’s application to take up religious orders. The Implementing Regulations codified the practice of controlling the movement of nuns and monks, requiring them to seek permission from county-level religious affairs officials to travel to another prefecture or county-level city within the TAR, study, or teach.
In Tibetan Buddhism, visiting different monasteries and religious sites both in the region and abroad for specialized training by experts in particular theological traditions is a key component of religious education. When monks travel across county or provincial lines for religious teaching or study, permission is required from the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) of both the sending and receiving counties. In addition, these restrictions sometimes apply to monks visiting other monasteries within the same county for short-term study or teaching.
The Implementing Regulations also gave the government formal control over the building and management of religious structures and over large-scale religious gatherings. Official permission was required for all monastic construction. Likewise, monasteries must request permission to hold large or important religious events. The TAR government also controlled the use of Tibetan Buddhist religious relics tightly, maintaining that the relics, along with religious institutions themselves, are state property.
In March 2010 the newly appointed TAR Chairman described the Dalai Lama as “the most important cause of instability in Tibet.” Some government officials maintained there was no law against possessing or displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama, but rather that most Tibetans chose not to display his picture. However, multiple sources noted that officials removed pictures of the Dalai Lama from monasteries and private homes and that open veneration of the Dalai Lama remains prohibited. The government also continued to ban pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, whom the Dalai Lama and the overwhelming majority of Tibetan Buddhists recognize as the 11th Panchen Lama. The Implementing Regulations state that “religious personnel and religious citizens may not distribute books, pictures, or other materials that harm the unity of the nationalities or endanger state security.” Some officials deemed photos of and books by or about the Dalai Lama and Gendun Choekyi Nyima as materials that violated the Implementing Regulations.
Nevertheless many Tibetans displayed photos of the Dalai Lama and Gendun Choekyi Nyima in their homes, in lockets, and on cellular telephones. The ability of Tibetans to display the Dalai Lama’s picture varied regionally and with the political climate. In major monasteries, especially those that attract large numbers of tourists, pictures of the Dalai Lama were not openly displayed. His picture also could not be purchased openly in the TAR or other Tibetan areas of China. Merchants who ignored the restrictions and sold Dalai Lama-related images and audiovisual material reported that authorities frequently imposed fines on them. In Tibetan areas outside the TAR, visitors to several monasteries saw pictures of the Dalai Lama prominently displayed, although monks reported that they would temporarily remove such photos during inspections by officials from the local RAB or other agencies. Visitors to Tibetan areas outside the TAR similarly observed pictures of the Dalai Lama displayed in Tibetans’ homes. Authorities appeared to view possession of such photos or material as evidence of separatist sentiment.
Authorities prohibited the registration of names for children that included one or more of the names of the Dalai Lama or certain names included on a list of blessed names approved by the Dalai Lama. As a result, many Tibetans have a name they use in daily life and a different, government-approved name for interactions with government officials.
There were no official religious holidays in China.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
Although authorities permitted many traditional religious ceremonies and practices as well as public manifestations of belief during the reporting period, they rigorously confined most religious activities to officially designated places of worship and maintained tight control over religious leaders and religious gatherings of laypeople. The government suppressed religious activities it viewed as vehicles for political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence.
The government stated there were no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries and that each monastery’s DMC could decide independently how many monks the monastery could support. In practice, however, the government imposed strict limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, particularly in the TAR and Sichuan’s Ganzi (Kardze) TAP. One method used by local authorities to restrict the growth of the number of monks was to impose restrictions on the construction of new housing in the monastery, forcing each dwelling to bear an address plate issued by the local government. Local RABs also frequently refused to issue official clergy permits or monk permits.
While the form, content, and frequency of “patriotic” education at monasteries varied widely, the conduct of such training was a routine part of monastic management. Increasingly “legal education” was a major theme of the training. Authorities often forced monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama and study materials praising the leadership of the CCP and the socialist system. Authorities also pressured monks and nuns to express allegiance to the government-recognized 11th Panchen Lama. Monks and nuns reported that patriotic education campaigns detracted from their religious studies, and some fled from their monasteries and nunneries because they faced expulsion for refusing to comply with the education sessions. According to sources, the overall numbers of monks and nuns in monasteries and nunneries remained at significantly lower levels than before the riots in March 2008. Government selected monks had primary responsibility for conducting patriotic education at each monastery. In some cases the government established “official working groups” at monasteries, and religious affairs and public security officials personally led the patriotic education.
Since the unrest in March 2008, monks in several Tibetan areas reported they were unable to leave their home monasteries. These restrictions had a negative impact on monks’ access to opportunities for advanced religious education. These restrictions, along with regulations on the transfer of religious resources between monasteries, also weakened the strong traditional ties between large monasteries in the TAR and affiliated monasteries in other Tibetan areas. An international nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported that monks and nuns who travelled to India claimed that among their main reasons for choosing to leave Tibet was the desire to continue their studies and obtain a blessing from the Dalai Lama and other key religious leaders.
In many areas during the reporting period, Public Security Bureaus (PSB) refused the passport applications of Tibetans, even as citizens from other ethnic groups were able to receive passports from the same offices without undue delays. Many Tibetans sought to travel to India for religious purposes, including an audience with the Dalai Lama, which is an important religious rite for Tibetan Buddhists, or to join religious communities and escape the increased controls over their religious practice at monasteries and nunneries in Tibetan areas. Some attributed the passport restrictions to an official effort to hinder travel for those purposes. There were also instances in which authorities confiscated previously issued passports of Tibetans. In some cases high-ranking religious figures were able to obtain a passport only after promising not to travel to India. In other cases Tibetans were only able to obtain passports after paying substantial bribes to local officials. Many other passport applications were simply denied. Monks and nuns have experienced greater difficulty obtaining passports since the March 2008 unrest.
Nevertheless, during the reporting period, hundreds of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, traveled to India via third countries, and most of them sought refugee status in India. The number of Tibetans who returned to the country after temporary stays in India was unknown but reportedly declined significantly from previous years. Some Tibetans who traveled to India without passports were reportedly subject to lengthy interrogations by Chinese public security bureau officials upon their return.
Sources report that on the Tibet-Nepal border, the government increased its border forces to prevent Tibetans from crossing the frontier without permission and exerted pressure on the Government of Nepal to forcibly return Tibetan refugees. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 838 Tibetans arrived at the Tibet Reception Center in Nepal in 2009, an increase from 2008, but still significantly below historical levels. In 2010 the number was 874.
Travel restrictions for foreign travelers to and within the TAR and other Tibetan areas continued during the reporting period, and the government tightly controlled visits by foreign officials to the TAR. Foreign visitors are required by regulation to obtain official permission letters issued by the government before entering the TAR. Foreign media were barred from the TAR, with the exception of a small number of closely monitored government-organized trips. Foreigners reported being denied entry at police roadblocks or denied bus tickets in Tibetan areas outside the TAR, ostensibly for safety reasons, while Chinese tourists passed unhindered. Local government officials were reluctant to acknowledge whether travel bans were in effect.
In the TAR and in Tibetan areas of Sichuan Province, the government reportedly continued to remove monks under the age of 18, unregistered monks and nuns, and monks and nuns from outside of the TAR and Ganzi (Kardze) Prefecture from monasteries. Furthermore, they also continued to remove school children from schools attached to monasteries. Some of the children were placed in public schools to receive compulsory education, but many others were provided with no alternative arrangements. During the reporting period, local authorities frequently pressured parents, especially those who were CCP members or government employees, to withdraw their children from monasteries in their hometowns, private schools attached to monasteries, and Tibetan schools in India. In some cases local authorities confiscated identity documents of parents whose children were studying at Tibetan schools in India as a means of forcing the parents to make their children return home. Without documents the parents were vulnerable to losing their jobs.
Authorities closely supervised the education of lamas approved by the government. The education of the current Reting Rinpoche, who was born on October 3, 1997, differed significantly from that of his predecessors. Historically, the Reting Rinpoche occasionally acted as the regent and had a role in the recognition of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. For the current Reting Rinpoche, government officials, rather than religious leaders, managed the selection of his religious and lay tutors, in a major deviation from the traditional pattern.
The quality and availability of high-level religious teachers in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained inadequate. Many teachers were in exile in India and elsewhere, older teachers were not replaced, and those who remained in Tibetan areas outside the TAR had difficulty securing permission to teach in other parts of China, abroad, or even within the TAR. Monks who were expelled from their Lhasa monasteries after March 2008 have not returned. The heads of most 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. The Karmapa, leader of Tibetan Buddhism’s Karma Kagyu school and one of its most influential religious figures, stated he left because the government controlled his movements and refused to allow him to go to India to be trained by his spiritual mentors or allow his teachers to come to him.
In recent years DMCs at several large monasteries began to use funds from the sale of entrance tickets or pilgrims’ donations–and, in some cases, DMC-run hotels, shops, and restaurants–for purposes other than the support of monks engaged in full-time religious study under the government policy of monastery self-sufficiency. According to sources, although local government officials’ attempts to attract tourists to religious sites provided some monasteries with extra income, such activities also deflected time and energy from religious instruction.
In March 2010 a public notice in Dorje Drak and Lhamotse monasteries stated that monks venturing outside of the monasteries must obey an 8 p.m. curfew. This curfew was still in effect at the end of the reporting period.
Spiritual leaders reportedly encountered difficulty reestablishing historical monasteries in rural areas, due to a lack of funding and government denials of permission to build and operate religious institutions. Officials in some areas contended that these religious venues drained local resources and served as a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community. However, in some areas, the government restored monasteries to promote tourism and boost revenue.
At Drepung Monastery and other religious sites, security forces continue to limit the number of times per week Tibetans could enter the monastery to worship. Such restrictions, however, were less prevalent than in the immediate period following the March 2008 unrest.
Since the outbreak of violence in March 2008, security forces continue to block access to and from important monasteries including those in the Lhasa area. A heavy police presence in the monasteries restricted the movement of monks and prevented “unauthorized” visits including those by foreign journalists.
According to numerous Tibetan monks in China, UFWD and RAB officials frequently pressure monks to attend sessions presided over by the government-recognized Panchen Lama, who also conducted prayer services in Yushu following the April 2010 earthquake.
The prohibition against celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6 continued during the reporting period. Authorities in many Tibetan areas confiscated or defaced his photographs in monasteries and private residences.
Abuses of Religious Freedom
There were reports of abuses of religious freedom in the country, including religious prisoners and detainees.
In March 2008 monks and nuns from a number of monasteries in Lhasa and other Tibetan communities mounted peaceful protests, asking for religious freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. After four days the protests and security response devolved into rioting by Tibetans and a violent police crackdown in Lhasa. Some protesters resorted to violence, in some cases deadly, against ethnic Han and Hui residents. The ensuing police actions resulted in an unknown number of deaths, injuries, arrests, and human rights abuses. Over the next few months, there were a number of protests across the Tibetan plateau involving monks, nuns, and laypeople, the vast majority of which were peaceful. In the weeks following the unrest, there were reports of mass detentions of monks and of police and military personnel sealing off monasteries. Cellular phone and Internet access were routinely blocked and “patriotic education” campaigns intensified.
Following the March 2008 protests, the government further tightened its already strict control over access to and information about Tibetan areas, particularly the TAR, making it difficult to determine the scope of religious freedom violations. These controls remained in place during the reporting period.
Respect for religious freedom in the TAR and other Tibetan areas deteriorated in the months following the violent unrest and remained poor throughout the reporting period. Authorities curtailed or tightly controlled numerous religious festivals and celebrations out of fear that these events would become venues for antigovernment protests. During 2009 and 2010, many relatively small-scale protests took place in the TAR and in Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai provinces.
The number of monks and nuns at several monasteries decreased after the protests of Spring 2008. Information about the locations of many who had been arrested was difficult to confirm, and according to many sources, the monks and nuns released from prisons must live in their home villages and cannot return to their monasteries or nunneries. Released monks and nuns, according to some reports, require permission from village or county-level authorities to leave their homes even to seek medical treatment.
Many Tibetans traveled to Nepal en route to India because of the increased restrictions on religious practice, particularly in monasteries and nunneries; a desire to study with Tibetan Buddhist religious teachers in India; or a desire to receive a blessing from the Dalai Lama. There were continued reports that the government detained Tibetans seeking to cross the border from Tibet to Nepal. Such detentions reportedly lasted as long as several months and sometimes took place without formal charges.
Chinese police sought to prevent Tibetans from crossing the Tibet-Nepal border and reportedly crossed into Nepal to pressure government officials to forcibly return Tibetans. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees documented the forcible return of three Tibetan Buddhists, including one monk, in June 2010.
According to a report by an international NGO, two of the three were sent to prison following their return to China. There were persistent and credible reports among Tibetans, based on information from cross-border guides, of asylum seekers being forcibly returned to the country.
As of September 1, 2010, the U.S. Congressional Executive Commission on China’s Political Prisoner Database contained records of 824 Tibetan political or religious prisoners believed to be currently detained or imprisoned. Of those 824 Tibetans, 479 (approximately 58 percent) are Tibetan Buddhist “religious professionals” (monks, nuns, and tulkus).
At the end of the reporting period, many monks and nuns remained in detention because of their involvement in the March 2008 protests. Several monks also reportedly committed suicide as a result of the harsh conditions and religious restrictions in monasteries that were imposed after March 2008. According to numerous sources, many of those detained were subjected to extrajudicial punishments, such as beatings and deprivation of food, water, and sleep for long periods. In some cases detainees reportedly suffered broken bones and other serious injuries at the hands of People’s Armed Police (PAP) and PSB officers. According to sources who claimed to be eyewitnesses, the bodies of some persons, including monks and nuns who were killed during the violence or who died during interrogation, were disposed of secretly rather than being returned to their families. More than 80 nuns reportedly were detained in Sichuan Province after March 2008; their whereabouts were still unknown.
Limited access to information about prisoners and prisons made it difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan prisoners of religious conscience or to assess the extent and severity of abuses.
In May 2010 a monk from Aba (Ngaba) Gomang Monastery in Sichuan Province named Dokru Tsultrim was rearrested, after having been arrested in March 2009 for writing articles in support of the Dalai Lama. Family members have reportedly been barred from visiting him.
In the winter of 2009 there were two protests calling for the release of prominent Buddhist figure Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who remained in a Sichuan prison on firearms charges. Sources claim that the firearms were left at his temple by a group who had renounced hunting.
In January 2009 Yangkyi, a nun at Dragkar Nunnery in Ganzi (Kardze), Sichuan Province, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison for her role in a May 12, 2008 protest.
Also in January 2009, three nuns were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison for staging a protest in Ganzi (Kardze) County, Sichuan Province, on June 18, 2008. The three nuns, Poewang, Lhamo, and Yangzom, were being held in a prison in Chengdu. Sources reported that at least 44 other nuns were being held in the same prison.
In January 2009 seven monks, including chant leader Nima Tsering, were arrested in connection with a protest against the creation of the holiday Serf Emancipation Day by an estimated 300 monks at the Den Choekhor Monastery in Jomda County. In February 2009 nine monks from the Samye Monastery were sentenced to prison terms varying from two to 15 years for their participation in the March 2008 protests at the government administrative headquarters in Dranang County. A tenth monk was reported to have committed suicide.
In March 2009 two Tibetan women, a nun and a layperson, were detained following protests in Kardze (Ganzi) in Sichuan Province. The two women staged separate protests, handing out leaflets and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet, respect for Tibetans’ human rights, religious freedom, and the release of the Panchen Lama and Tibetan prisoners. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
In March 2009 nearly 100 monks from the Ragya Monastery rioted in the Guoluo (Golog) TAP of Qinghai Province. International media reported that the riot started after a local monk who was questioned for advocating Tibetan independence ran away from the police station and jumped into the Yellow River to commit suicide.
In March 2009 according to an NGO report, two nuns from Dragkar Nunnery in Ganzi (Kardze), Sichuan Province, Yangkyi Dolma and Sonam Yangchen, were detained and beaten for staging a protest at the Ganzi (Kardze) County market square. Yangkyi Dolma allegedly distributed a handful of handwritten pamphlets, and both nuns shouted pro-Tibet slogans before PAP officers beat them and took them away. Yangkyi Dolma died in a Chengdu hospital from unknown causes in December 2009.
In March 2009 four nuns from the Puru-na Nunnery in Ganzi (Kardze), Sichuan Province, were sentenced to prison for their role in a 50-person protest at county headquarters on May 14, 2008. Tashi Lhamo, Youghal Khando, and Serka were each sentenced to two years in prison. Rinzin Choetso received a three-year sentence. The whereabouts of seven other nuns involved in the protest remained unknown.
Also in March 2009, according to an NGO, PSB personnel beat to death Phuntsok, a monk from the Drango Monastery in Ganzi (Kardze), after he passed out leaflets calling upon local Tibetans to forego crop cultivation as a gesture of mourning for monks who were tortured and imprisoned after the March 2008 unrest.
In April 2009 PSB officers in Nagchu County reportedly detained Khensur Thupten Thapkhey, a former abbot of Shapten Monastery, and scripture master Geshe Tsultrim Gyaltsen. They allegedly also detained a third monk, Tsundue, of Shapten Monastery’s Democratic Management Committee.
In May 2009 monk Tsltrim Gyatso from Lhabrang Monastery in Gansu was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly “endangering state security” by organizing a peaceful protest opposing religious freedom restrictions.
In July 2009 Jamyang Tenzin, a Tibetan monk from Lithang county, Kardze Prefecture, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for opposing a patriotic education campaign in his monastery.
In November 2009 Kunga Tsayang, a monk from the Amdo Labrang Tashi Kyii Monastery, was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of disclosing state secrets in his Internet writings.
In December 2009 Tulku Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison. In April 2009 he went on trial for weapons charges related to protests that took place in 2008 in Ganzi (Kardze) County, Sichuan.
No information was available on the fate of monks who protested in front of a group of foreign journalists at Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple on March 27, 2008. Monks involved in a similar protest in front of foreign journalists at the Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province on April 9, 2008, were reportedly arrested. Five of the Labrang monks later escaped to India.
Tibetan monk Jigme Guri (also commonly known as Golog Jime or Jigme Gyatso) from Labrang Monastery, who was detained in March 2008, was released from prison in May 2010.
In June 2008 the Intermediate Court in Lhoka, TAR, sentenced nine monks to prison for two to 15 years in connection with protests at a government building in Dranang County, Lhoka, on March 18, 2008. Those sentenced included Tenzin Bhuchung of Langthang Monastery and Gyaltsen of Samye Monastery, who each received 15-year sentences. Tenzin Zoepa of Jowo Monastery was given a 13-year sentence. Nima Tashi and Phuntsok, also of Samye Monastery, were each sentenced to 13 years in prison.
No new information was available on Rongye Adak, who was arrested in August 2008 in Ganzi (Kardze) County, Sichuan Province, after calling for the Dalai Lama’s return. He was convicted of inciting separatism and sentenced to eight years in prison.
In October 2008 two monks from the Ratoe Monastery in Chushul County were sentenced to prison for their role in the March 15 riot at the Chushul County government headquarters. According to the Xinhua news agency, Lobsang Tsephel was sentenced to nine years and Tsenam to five years.
In November 2008 Dorje Kangzhu, a nun from Ganzi (Kardze) County, Sichuan Province, was sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly “inciting secession” after being arrested for distributing Tibetan independence leaflets and shouting support for the Dalai Lama in May 2008.
The whereabouts of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, recognized by the Dalai Lama and the vast majority of Tibetans as the Panchen Lama, remained unknown. The government refused requests by international observers to visit Nyima, who turned 21 years old on April 25, 2010. In October 2009 government officials in Tibet told a visiting foreign delegation that Nyima was “growing up very well, loves Chinese culture, and is enjoying his life.” The officials asserted that his identification as the 11th Panchen Lama was “illegal.” The government continued to insist that Gyaltsen Norbu, whom it selected in 1995, is the Panchen Lama’s 11th reincarnation. The government did not provide any information on Lama Chadrel Rinpoche, who reportedly remained under house arrest for leaking information about the selection of the Panchen Lama.
The government also severely restricted contact between several important reincarnate lamas and the outside world. For example the 11th Pawo Rinpoche, whom the 17th Karmapa recognized in 1994, remained under official supervision at Nenang Monastery. Foreign delegations have repeatedly been refused permission to visit him.
Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom
Authorities in the Yushu TAP, Qinghai Province, often tolerated the display of the Dalai Lama’s photo in temporary shelters and in shrines erected to mourn the dead following the earthquake. Foreign visitors to Yushu in September saw photos of the Dalai Lama widely displayed on vehicle windshields and on amulets and, in once instance, in a monastery temple.
Since 2008 about 50 Tibetan monks who are resident in India but originally from Diqing Prefecture, Yunnan Province, have been given permission by Chinese authorities to return to Yunnan to visit relatives and friends. Diqing, which did not have violent confrontations after the 2008 Lhasa riots, is considered by the government to be a model Tibetan Prefecture and was given permission to accept larger numbers of monk visitors from India.
Section III. Status of Societal Action Affecting Enjoyment of Religious Freedom
Since ethnicity and religion are often interlinked in many parts of the country, it is difficult to categorize many incidents solely as ethnic or religious intolerance. Tensions among ethnic groups in Tibetan areas, including the Han, the Muslim Hui, and others remained high during the reporting period. Tensions between individuals of different religious beliefs – such as between Tibetans, ethnic Hui in the TAR, and TAPs – also were related to economic competition. Many ethnic Han Buddhists were interested in Tibetan Buddhism and donated money to Tibetan monasteries and nunneries. Tibetan monks frequently visited inland Chinese cities to provide religious instruction to Han Buddhists. In addition, a growing number of ethnic Han Buddhists visited Tibetan monasteries in the summer, although the central government imposed restrictions that made it difficult for ethnic Han Buddhists to do long-term study at monasteries in ethnic Tibetan areas.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The Department of State, the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu made a concerted effort to encourage greater religious freedom in Tibetan areas, using focused pressure in cases of abuse. Embassy and consulate general officials expressed concern and sought further information on cases whenever there were credible reports of religious persecution or discrimination. U.S. diplomatic personnel in the country maintained contacts with a wide range of religious leaders and practitioners in Tibetan areas to monitor the status of religious freedom. After the outbreak of unrest in the TAR and other Tibetan areas in March 2008, U.S. government officials repeatedly requested diplomatic access to affected areas. The rate of approval of such requests increased over this reporting period in comparison to 2008-2009, but the majority of requests were denied, and visits to the TAR were closely controlled and monitored. Unpublished restrictions on travel by foreigners into the TAR and other Tibetan areas imposed in March 2008 often resulted in U.S. diplomats and other foreigners being turned back at police roadblocks, ostensibly for their own safety, or being refused transportation on public buses to Tibetan areas outside the TAR that were officially open to foreign visitors.
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US: Religious Freedom on decline in China, Worse in Tibet
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