UN experts write to China on Panchen Lama, reincarnation rules

UN experts write to China on Panchen Lama, reincarnation rules
August 4, 2020

Five UN human rights experts and expert bodies have raised concerns with the Chinese government about Tibet’s “disappeared” Panchen Lama and Beijing’s reincarnation rules, citing fears about Chinese interference in the succession of the Dalai Lama.

In a statement to the Chinese government, the experts “express grave concern at the continued refusal by the Government of China to disclose precisely the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima,” the 11th Panchen Lama, and call for an independent monitor to visit him.

The Panchen Lama, one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism, has been missing since the Chinese government kidnapped him and his family in 1995 just days after the Dalai Lama identified him as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was only six years old at the time.

The Chinese government’s rules on the appointment of Tibetan Buddhist leaders “may interfere and possibly undermine[s], in a discriminatory way, the religious traditions and practices of the Tibetan Buddhist minority,” the statement from the UN experts says.

The experts appeal to the Chinese government “to ensure that Tibetan Buddhists are able to freely practice their religion, traditions and cultures without interference,” as freedom of religion includes the right of Tibetan Buddhists “to determine their clergy and religious leaders in accordance with their own religious traditions and practices.”

The statement was made public on August 1 and submitted by the mandates of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; the Special Rapporteur on minority issues; and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Dalai Lama succession

The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the statement by the UN experts. “The abduction of the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, 25 years ago is an open wound in the hearts and minds of Tibetan Buddhists,” ICT said. “The Chinese government, after years of bluntly ignoring UN bodies and international criticism, must finally allow free access to him.”
The organization added: “The UN experts also underline that any state interference with the appointment of Tibetan Buddhist leaders stands in clear contravention of international human rights law. As they rightly acknowledge such fears, this would be the case with Beijing’s stated intention to appoint a future Dalai Lama. The international community should therefore double its efforts to safeguard the rights of the Tibetans to choose a future Dalai Lama without interference by the Chinese government.”

The Chinese government has repeatedly claimed the right to choose the successor to the current 14th Dalai Lama and has passed rules and regulations to support this claim, despite criticism by Tibetan Buddhists, especially the Dalai Lama himself.

Recently, the high representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, stated that the “selection of religious leaders should happen without any government interference and in respect of religious norms. The implementation of any legal provision should take these principles into account. The Chinese revised regulations on Religious Affairs pose serious questions in this respect and it will be therefore important to monitor their implementation … China needed to respect the succession process of the Dalai Lama.”

Tibetan Policy and Support ActLast year, the US Congress introduced the bipartisan Tibetan Policy and Support Act, a comprehensive bill that will dramatically upgrade US support for Tibetans, including by making it official US policy that only Tibetan Buddhists can decide on the Dalai Lama’s succession.

If Chinese officials attempt to name their own Dalai Lama in the future, they will face sanctions under the act.

The House of Representatives passed the bill by an overwhelming majority in January. ICT is now working to get the bill passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president this year.

Tibetan Exiles Continue Experiment in Democracy as New Elections Near

Tibetan Exiles Continue Experiment in Democracy as New Elections Near
2020-07-22

Tibetans living outside of their China-ruled homeland are now preparing for a new round of elections, the third since 2011, to seat a new political leader, or Sikyong, for their India-based government-in-exile as the current officeholder’s five-year term in office nears its end.

Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-trained scholar of law, has now served two consecutive terms as Sikyong and will retire as president of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) when his present terms ends in May 2021.

No one has yet declared their candidacy to replace him in the post, though possible contenders include Gyari Dolma, former deputy speaker of Tibet’s exile parliament and former home minister in Sangay’s cabinet; Drongchung Ngodup, former CTA minister of security; Lobsang Nyandak, former finance minister in the government of Sangay’s predecessor Samdhong Rinpoche; and Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, current deputy speaker of the exile parliament.

Some in the Tibetan exile community have meanwhile voiced concern over the possible impact of Covid-19 related restrictions on public gatherings on voting held in the many countries in Europe, North America, India, and elsewhere in Asia where Tibetans have made their home after fleeing China’s rule.

“We are hoping and planning that the Tibetan diaspora around the world can proceed for the general election vote to take place on time,” Tibetan exile Chief Election Commissioner Wangdue Tsering Pesur told RFA’s Tibetan Service in a July 20 interview.

“This will need to be done in compliance with the local situation and laws of the land” set up to block the spread of coronavirus, though, Pesur added.

Voting will be held first in preliminary and primary polls, with a previous gap of 90 days between these rounds now reduced to 45 days, and two candidates for a final election for Sikyong selected based on results from the preliminary round, sources say.

In the event of only one candidate for Sikyong emerging in the contest because of other candidates withdrawing in the early rounds, he or she must still gain at least 51 percent of the votes that are cast in order to be declared elected, however.

Regional, religious partisanship

Efforts have now been made to reduce the impact of partisanship based on Tibetan regional loyalties or religious affiliation, with Tibetan NGOs including regional associations and religious sects now barred from endorsing candidates.

“Voters and their candidates and the candidates’ supporters should uphold a sense of Tibetan unity in their campaigning and vetting processes,” said Pema Jungney, speaker of Tibet’s India-based Parliament in Exile, adding, “This should be an integral part of the candidates’ campaigns.”

The numbers of Tibetan exiles registered to vote have climbed in the last 10 years, with 82,818 signed up for the 2011 election, of whom 48,482 actually voted, and 90,877 registered for the election held in 2016, of whom 59,853 turned out to vote.

The Tibetan diaspora is estimated to include about 150,000 people in 40 countries.

Disputes over Tibet’s status

Divisions meanwhile persist in the Tibetan exile community over how best to advance the rights and freedoms of Tibetans living in China, with some calling for a restoration of the independence lost when Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950.

The CTA and Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have instead adopted a policy approach called the Middle Way, which accepts Tibet’s present status as a part of China but urges greater cultural and religious freedoms, including strengthened language rights, for Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule.

Speaking to RFA, Gonpo Dhondup—president of the exile Tibetan Youth Congress, which advocates for Tibet’s independence—said that his own organization struggles for Tibet’s complete independence “based on our moral rights and duties as an NGO functioning under a democratic administration.”

“This official policy of CTA may change if a majority of Tibetans want it to do so,” Dhondup said.

“Debates and discussions [around this issue] are constantly taking place in our exile community, as would happen in any other democratic country,” Dhondup said.

“There are some people who do challenge the Middle Way policy, and they are then attacked by certain other people for appearing to oppose His Holiness [the Dalai Lama], as if they lacked faith in His Holiness.”

“But I don’t think they lack faith in His Holiness. They just don’t trust the Chinese government,” Dhondup said.

Reported by Ugyen Tenzin and Dorjee Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Tibetan Monasteries Closed to Outside Visitors on Dalai Lama’s Birthday

Tibetan Monasteries Closed to Outside Visitors on Dalai Lama’s Birthday
2020-07-10

Chinese authorities fanned out across Tibetan areas of China over the weekend, warning Tibetan monasteries not to host “outside visitors” during the 85th birthday on July 6 of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a source in exile said.

Areas covered by the prohibition included monasteries in western China’s Sichuan and Qinghai provinces, and parts of the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the northwestern province of Gansu, RFA’s source said, citing contacts in the region.

“While introducing Chinese policy and relevant laws to the monasteries, the officials emphasized that no outside visitors would be permitted to stay there,” the source said.

In Sichuan province’s Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture, a government group led by Wang Shu Yin, a Communist Party official and head of the local police department, entered Ganden Phuntsok Ling monastery in Rongdrag (Danba) county on July 5 to conduct inspections, the source said.

“During their tour, the Chinese officials urged the residents to become ‘exemplary and patriotic’ monks and watch out for any outside visitors in the area and in the monastery itself,” he said, adding, “The officials urged the monks to report any suspicious persons to the local government or police department.”

Strict prohibitions against overnight visitors to the monastery had already been in place since 2019 in an effort to deter protests on the occasion of politically sensitive anniversaries such as the March 10th anniversary of Tibetan national uprisings against Chinese rule and the July 6 birthday of the Dalai Lama, the source said.

Greetings and well wishes meanwhile poured in from around the world on Sunday, the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday, with Tibetans in Tibet defying Chinese prohibitions on celebrations by offering prayers and posting images of the revered spiritual leader online – often using oblique symbols.

“Many devotees in different parts of Tibet have made ritual offerings of juniper smoke to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama,” a source in Tibet said in an earlier report, adding that other Tibetans had gone online to post images of the Buddhist deity of compassion, Chenresig, with whom the Dalai Lama is identified.

Other Tibetan netizens posted poems in celebration, with one addressing the well-loved spiritual teacher as “the glorious sun,” and another writing, “As long as you are present, our hope remains unflinching. May you live as long as space endures.”

Regarded by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 Tibetan national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country in 1950.

Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo, public celebrations of his birthday, and the sharing of his teachings on mobile phones or other social medial are often harshly punished.

Chinese authorities meanwhile maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated regions of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Taiwan Would Welcome Visit by Tibet’s Dalai Lama, Foreign Ministry Says

Taiwan Would Welcome Visit by Tibet’s Dalai Lama, Foreign Ministry Says
2020-07-06

Taiwan would welcome a visit by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday, adding that any invitation would be handled under “relevant rules” if a request to visit is received.

The Dalai Lama is “welcome to come to Taiwan again to propagate the Buddhist teachings,” spokeswoman Joanne Ou said, adding that an application by the Dalai Lama to visit would be handled “in accordance with the principle of mutual respect and at a time of convenience for both sides.”

A visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama would be his first since 2009 and would certainly anger Beijing, which claims self-governing Taiwan as a renegade province and regards the Tibetan spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist intent on splitting Tibet from Chinese rule.

“As the political scenario changes, it may be that I’ll be able to visit you in Taiwan again soon. I hope so,” the Dalai Lama said In a video message sent to supporters in Taiwan on July 6, his birthday, and referring apparently to recent moves by Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen to further distance Taiwan from China.

“Whatever happens, I’ll remain with you in spirit,” the Dalai Lama said.

Greetings and well wishes poured in from around the world on Sunday, the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday, with Tibetans in Tibet defying Chinese prohibitions on celebrations by offering prayers and posting images of the revered spiritual leader online.

“Many devotees in different parts of Tibet have made ritual offerings of juniper smoke to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama,” a source in Tibet told RFA’s Tibet Service, adding that other Tibetans have gone online to post images of the Buddhist deity of compassion, Chenresig, with whom the Dalai Lama is identified.

Western politicians and foreign dignitaries including former U.S. President George Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Nobel laureates, and European politicians meanwhile sent video messages voicing admiration and support.

“The esteem in which you are held by the people of the United States is a demonstration of the deep and enduring affinity between Americans and Tibetans,” said U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster in a statement at celebrations held in Dharamsala, India, by Tibet’s government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration.

“I believe the warm feelings between Americans and Tibetans spring in part from the recognition that yours is a just and noble struggle—a struggle to secure for your people the same self-evident and unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that our Founding Fathers enshrined in the Declaration of Independence,” Juster said.

Regarded by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 Tibetan national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country in 1950.

Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo, public celebrations of his birthday, and the sharing of his teachings on mobile phones or other social medial are often harshly punished.

Chinese authorities meanwhile maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated regions of western China, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Tibetan Land Protesters Get Lengthy Jail Terms in Action Against Gansu Slaughterhouse

Tibetan Land Protesters Get Lengthy Jail Terms in Action Against Gansu Slaughterhouse
2020-07-15

Ten Tibetans drew stiff prison terms at the end of June in China’s Gansu province after attempting to block construction of a slaughterhouse and demanding compensation for confiscated land in protests that Chinese authorities said had “disturbed social order,” RFA has learned.

Convicted at the end of a two-day trial held from June 28 to 29 in Gansu’s Sangchu (in Chinese, Xiahe) county, the men were sentenced to terms ranging from eight to 13 years and given fines of 50,000 to 70,000 yuan, Tibetan sources said.

Among those sentenced, two monks from Sangchu’s Namlha monastery named Tashi Gyatso and Tsewang drew the heaviest penalties, with both men sentenced to prison terms of 13 years and fined 70,000 yuan (U.S. $10,008) each, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

“Both monks were members of the monastery’s democratic management committee, and had been appointed by local members of the community,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity and citing contacts in Sangchu.

“Along with the other eight defendants, they were arrested in 2019 after their failed attempt to block construction of a slaughterhouse and their demand for compensation” for Tibetans whose land has been taken for the project, the source said.

Four of the laymen convicted—Nyingchak, Gyal-lo, Sonam Gyal, and Takthar Gyal—were sentenced to prison for nine years and fined 50,000 yuan (U.S. 47,149) each, with the remaining four—Tenpa Gyatso, Tamdin Dorje, Tamdin Tsering, and Choepa Tsering—given eight-year terms and fined 50,000 yuan, the source said.

A television record of the trial obtained by RFA showed all defendants pleading not guilty to the charges of obstructing government construction projects and “causing social disturbances” made against them.

“The sentences given to us are unfair,” the monk Tashi Gyatso said addressing the court, adding that money given to him and Tsewang in partial compensation by the Hui Muslim owners of the slaughterhouse had not been diverted by them for personal use, but had been given instead to their monastery.

“We haven’t broken any of the country’s laws. Why is the court sending us to prison?” he asked.

Another defendant, Gyal-lo, pleaded ignorance of any rules he might have broken, saying, “I am uneducated, as I didn’t attend school as a child.”

“But we worked to protect the interests of the monastery, and our services to the monastery are now being called illegal. We don’t believe we have done anything against the law. We only carried out our responsibilities according to the instructions given to us by the township government,” he said.

“We appeal for clemency, as we are now all old,” he added.

Verdict determined in advance

A local Tibetan who attended the trial told RFA the verdict against the 10 men appeared to have been determined by authorities in advance.

“It is sheer theatrics to hold such a trial when the verdict has already been passed. This trial was a farce and a sham. The Tibetans did not receive justice,” said the man, who requested anonymity for his safety.

After failing to block construction of the slaughterhouse at Barka Thang township in Sangchu, local Tibetans had protested over several years to demand compensation for land lost to the project and damage to structures along a road being built, including cracks in the wall of a local restaurant, the source said.

The accused Tibetans ranged in age from 50 to 70 years, and had appealed for clemency both during their interrogations and at trial, saying they had only represented the wishes of local residents to protect their land and fight for their rights.

“Therefore, they launched their advocacy campaign,” he said. “They feel strongly that they have not committed any crime, but the court disregarded their appeal and went ahead with its harsh sentences.”

Disputes over the project and the protests had created a rift in the Barka Thang community for several years, another source in exile said, also citing contacts in the region.

“And there are many stakeholders involved, as the controversy is intricately connected with the interests of local Tibetans, Chinese officials, Chinese business owners, Chinese workers, and the Hui Muslims.”

“But in the end, it was the 10 Tibetans who bore the brunt of all the trouble caused by this controversial project,” he said.

Development projects in Tibetan areas have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms and local officials of pilfering money, improperly seizing land, and disrupting the lives of local people.

Many result in violent suppression and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes, with protest leaders frequently detained and charged under cover of a Chinese campaign against so-called “underworld criminal gangs” in Tibetan areas.

Reported by Lhuboom. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

U.S. Visa Restrictions Over Tibet Access Draw Threat of Tit-For-Tat Chinese Response

U.S. Visa Restrictions Over Tibet Access Draw Threat of Tit-For-Tat Chinese Response
Eugene Whong
2020-07-08

China said on Wednesday it plans to implement visa restrictions on U.S. citizens, a day after the U.S. issued travel bans on Chinese officials who restrict foreign access to Tibet.

The tit-for-tat moves by Beijing and Washington are the latest spat in deteriorating relations over trade, the coronavirus, the treatment of detained Uyghurs in Xinjiang, Beijing’s displays of military might in the South China Sea and what the U.S. and others see as China’s overreach in Hong Kong.

China’s visa measures would go into effect for “U.S. individuals with egregious conduct related to Tibet issues,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, but he did not elaborate on the threat.

“We urge the U.S. to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs with Tibet-related issues … so as to avoid further damage to China-U.S. relations,” Zhao told reporters at a daily news briefing.

Beijing’s move followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement of U.S. restrictions on selected Chinese officials a day earlier in Washington.

“Unfortunately, Beijing has continued systematically to obstruct travel to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and other Tibetan areas by U.S. diplomats and other officials, journalists, and tourists, while PRC officials and other citizens enjoy far greater access to the United States,” Pompeo said in a statement Tuesday.

“Therefore, today I am announcing visa restrictions on PRC government and Chinese Communist Party officials determined to be substantially involved in the formulation or execution of policies related to access for foreigners to Tibetan areas,” he added.

The U.S. move is in accordance with the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which was passed unanimously in both houses of Congress in 2018.

Washington has long complained that Chinese diplomats, scholars and journalists enjoy unrestricted travel in the United States, while China tightly restricts the access of U.S. counterparts to Tibet and other areas.

Foreigners wishing to travel to Tibet must apply for special permits from the Chinese government. Limiting travel makes getting information out of the remote western region more difficult, which human rights activists say enables a campaign by Beijing’s to eliminate Tibet’s indigenous culture and religion.

“Access to Tibetan areas is increasingly vital to regional stability, given the PRC’s human rights abuses there, as well as Beijing’s failure to prevent environmental degradation near the headwaters of Asia’s major rivers,” Pompeo said.

A message to China

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan government in exile, suggested other governments could enact similar moves.

“The US government’s strong position on Tibet access could also influence many foreign countries to follow the same footsteps, and that could be a great victory for Tibetans if that takes place,” CTA spokesman Tsewang Gyalpo Arya told RFA Wednesday.

“China claims that the living conditions inside Tibet have drastically improved and Tibetans are living happily, but foreign diplomats, UN delegations, foreign journalists, visitors have been barred from visiting Tibet,” he added.

With the Tibet visa policy, “the U.S. is sending Beijing a clear message that it will face consequences for its human rights abuses and continued isolation of Tibet from the outside world,” said Matteo Mecacci, president of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet.

“The Chinese government has for a long time taken advantage of the freedoms—and access to markets—provided by democracies, without reciprocating, while building an Orwellian system of control. It is now critically important for the U.S. and like-minded countries to demand China provide the same openness it receives from others,” he added.

Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said the visa sanctions are “a way of sending a message to the Chinese government that other governments are frustrated by the impediments Beijing throws up to accessing Tibet.”

“It’s an interesting experiment and it will be very interesting to see how Chinese authorities respond to it, and how it plays into the thinking on Capitol Hill about other legislative approaches to certain kinds of rights abuses in China.”

Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Statement by President of Central Tibetan Administration, Dr Lobsang Sangay

Statement by President of Central Tibetan Administration, Dr Lobsang Sangay

Date: 27 June 2020

Yesterday, 50 UN independent experts from 30 UN Special Procedure mandate called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to “act with a sense of urgency” to take all appropriate decisive measures including a special UNHRC session and establishment of a special rapporteur to protect fundamental freedoms in regions under the People’s Republic of China including Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang. The Central Tibetan Administration and Tibetans from both inside and outside Tibet, would like to thank the UN experts for their timely intervention and welcome their call for urgent decisive measures against the government of China.

In the last six decades and more, Tibetans within Tibet are suffering under the authoritarian rule of the government of China. The Chinese government has stripped off Tibetans of their basic human rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, annihilating the distinct identity of Tibetans and denying them their inherent dignity of being human. The tortures, enforced disappearances, and destructions of monasteries carried out by the government of China against Tibetans are acts of crimes against humanity and do not fall short of being categorized as “cultural genocide.” The persecution and suppression via high-tech surveillance by China have forced 154 Tibetans from different walks of life in Tibet to self-immolate as a mark of peaceful protest against the Chinese authorities since 2009.

The unchecked, systemic, and egregious violations by the government of China with impunity in Tibet has emboldened it to carry out similar violations in Xinjiang and now Hong Kong. It is time to hold China accountable, otherwise, it will have an adverse global impact as evidenced by the Wuhan originated Covid-19 pandemic. As rightly noted by the UN experts, the violations by China are threatening the world peace and security leading to human rights emergencies across the globe.

The Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetans from both inside and outside Tibet strongly support the call of the UN experts on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to take urgent measures against the Chinese human rights violations.

We strongly urge the UNHRC and the Member States to hold a special session to evaluate the human rights violations being carried out by China and to establish a country mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on China to monitor, analyze and report annually on the human rights situation in Tibet and other regions under the People’s Republic of China. We urge the international community to unite and ensure that China fulfils its obligations under international laws including human rights obligations before it is too late.

Filed by Tibet Bureau, Geneva

Tibetan Students, State Workers Barred From Religious Events in Lhasa

Tibetan Students, State Workers Barred From Religious Events in Lhasa
2020-05-26

Chinese authorities are closely watching government employees and students in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa during the Buddhist holy month of Saga Dawa, forbidding them from participating in traditional religious gatherings, according to sources in Tibet.

Saga Dawa, which falls on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar and began this year on May 23, commemorates the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment, and is traditionally celebrated in Buddhist countries around the world.

Though Lhasa’s famous Jokhang Temple and other religious sites are now open to the public, “students, government workers, and persons drawing a state pension are not allowed to take part in religious events,” one resident of the city told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Parents of Tibetan schoolchildren have likewise been warned in meetings with Chinese officials not to permit their children to attend religious ceremonies during Saga Dawa, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Authorities have warned that Communist Party members, government workers, and students who are found to have attended religious ceremonies will face severe consequences,” the source said.

“Police activity in Lhasa is also increasing at this time,” he added.

“During the initial outbreak of coronavirus in Lhasa, the schools in Tibet were all closed for a considerable time,” a second source in Lhasa said.

Lhasa area schools have meanwhile finally opened following a long period of shut-down owing to fears of the spread of coronavirus in the city, another source in Lhasa told RFA.

“During the initial outbreak of coronavirus in Lhasa, the schools in Tibet were all closed for a considerable time,” the source, a parent of schoolchildren said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“Gradually, the schools reopened, but the kindergartens and day care centers mostly stayed closed, opening again only on May 25,” he said.

Authorities in Tibetan-populated areas of China have long sought to restrict the influence on children of Tibetan Buddhist religion, traditionally a focus of Tibetan cultural and national identity, sources in the region say.

Reported by Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Top US Religious Official Pledges Support For Dalai Lama’s Return to ‘More Autonomous’ Tibet

Top US Religious Official Pledges Support For Dalai Lama’s Return to ‘More Autonomous’ Tibet
2020-06-03

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback on Wednesday pledged Washington’s assistance to Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in returning from exile to a Tibet with greater autonomy, in his latest salvo against Beijing for its persecution of ethnic groups in China.

Speaking after taking part in an online forum for Tibetan American Youth, organized by Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), the top U.S. religious official told RFA’s Tibetan Service that advocacy for Tibet is now more “crucial” than ever.

“Tibet’s issue needs to be raised and highlighted where Tibet needs more autonomy, Tibetans should be able to practice their faith freely and the Dalai Lama must be able to return to Tibet if he chooses to,” said Brownback, a former U.S. senator and state governor.

“China denies all these, yet with bipartisan support in Congress, we will make these things possible and bring the Tibetan issue in the forefront.”

U.S. Representative Jim McGovern, who also spoke at ICT’s event, told RFA that the human rights situation in Tibet had continued to worsen amidst restrictions on teaching the Tibetan language, culture, natural resources, and religious freedom.

The chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) also slammed Beijing over its insistence that it select the reincarnation of Tibet’s religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama, as well as its policies he said are part of a bid to “eliminate the distinct Tibetan identity.”

“We are criticizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and not the Chinese people, who are also suffering under China’s repression,” he said.

“We stand in solidarity with the Tibetan people and revere His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We all are in this together and we expect the President to sign the Tibet Policy and Support Act into law soon.”

Tibet acts

In January, a bill to strengthen U.S. policy in support of Tibet won strong approval by the House of Representatives. The Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) was passed by a vote of 392 to 22, and now requires a vote in the Senate, which is also reviewing a companion bill.

Co-sponsored by McGovern and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the TPSA when signed into law will require China to allow the opening of a U.S. consulate in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa before any new Chinese consulate can open in the United States.

It will also establish a U.S. policy that the selection of Tibetan religious leaders, including future successors to exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, is a decision to be made by Tibetans free from Chinese government interference.

“The Chinese government is not respecting the diplomatic principle of reciprocity,” McGovern said.

“When we passed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, it was not just a statement. China basically doesn’t want the world to see what’s happening inside Tibet—how the Tibetans are repressed and have no religious freedom.”

In a move pushing for greater U.S. access to Tibet, now largely closed by China to American diplomats and journalists, President Donald Trump in December 2018 signed into law a bill denying visas to Chinese officials responsible for blocking entry to the Beijing-ruled Himalayan region.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 requires the U.S. Secretary of State to identify Chinese officials responsible for excluding U.S. citizens, including Americans of Tibetan ethnic origin, from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and then ban them from entering the United States.

The law also requires the State Department to provide to the Congress each year a list of U.S. citizens blocked from entry to Tibet.

Earlier, during the ICT forum, both Brownback and McGovern had encouraged young Tibetan Americans to advocate for Tibet by applying for internships in U.S. government offices and become active in campaigns for their ancestral homeland.

Series of measures

The TPSA is the latest in a series of measures Congress has taken to hold China accountable for rights abuses in Tibet and in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a network of some 1,300 internment camps since April 2017.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 413-1 via proxy to approve the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 following the bill’s passage in the Senate in mid-May, marking the first legislation by any government to target China for its persecution of Uyghurs in the XUAR.

The act would sanction Chinese government officials responsible for arbitrary incarceration, forced labor and other abuses in the region, condemn the CCP for the camp system, and require regular monitoring of the situation in the region by U.S. government bodies for the application of sanctions once signed into law by Trump.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

US Asks For Meeting with Tibet’s Detained Panchen Lama

US Asks For Meeting with Tibet’s Detained Panchen Lama
2020-05-21

The U.S. government would like to meet in person with Tibet’s Panchen Lama, who vanished into Chinese custody as a young boy 25 years ago this week and has not been heard from since, a State Department spokesman told RFA on Thursday.

“This Administration would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Panchen Lama in person,” the spokesman said, noting that only Beijing so far knows the answers to questions asked around the world about the circumstances of the high-ranking religious leader’s detention since 1995.

“We urge the PRC government to release immediately the details of the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts, which have remained unknown since his forced disappearance by Chinese authorities in 1995,” the spokesman said.

Tibet’s Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was recognized on May 14, 1995 at the age of six as the 11th Panchen Lama, the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 10th Panchen Lama.

The recognition by exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama angered Chinese authorities, who three days later took the boy and his family into custody and then installed another boy, Gyaincain Norbu, as their own candidate in his place.

Tibetan tradition holds that senior Buddhist monks and other respected religious leaders are reincarnated in the body of a child after they die.

The Panchen Lama installed by Beijing meanwhile remains unpopular with Tibetans both in exile and at home.

Thursday’s U.S. statement came at the end of a week of exchanges between the U.S. and China, with U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on May 18 calling on China to make public the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts, and a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry saying next day that the now 31-year-old Panchen is a college graduate who “now has a job” and wishes with his family not to be disturbed in their “normal life.”

“The Panchen Lama is one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism with spiritual authority second only to the Dalai Lama,” the State Department said on Thursday.

“We again urge the PRC government to cease interfering in the right of the Tibetans to select, educate, and venerate their own religious leaders. All faith communities share this right, and it must be respected,” the State Department said.

Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.