The Chinese government has recently imposed a strict ban on religious activities on all Tibetan Party members and cadres in Tsolho (Ch: Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) in Amdo (Ch: Qinghai Province) according to a reliable source. The ban required all party members to refrain from engaging in religious activities at home, being forced to get rid of personal religious altars and shrines.

The punishment for not complying with the order includes facing lay off from government jobs and deprivation of fundamental rights including denial of state benefits and subsidies: “Such measures have pressured Tibetan Party members in the region into removing personal Buddhist shrines and altars at their homes against their will.”

In Tibetan homes altars are commonly seen with images of Buddha or other spiritual leaders who stand in highest regard by performing rituals and offerings. It remains a crucial part of the practices in Tibetan Buddhism which is a galling reminder to the Chinese authorities of Tibetan culture and identity. In addition, strict bans are imposed on holding prayer services, implying further restrictions on funeral practices for deceased family members and relatives – a clear sign of assault on Buddhist customs and practices. “While the current decree is only being implemented in some areas, it is very likely to be expanded into other areas in the future.”

On 22 April 2021 the Chinese government introduced “Code of Conduct for Communist Party Members in the Tibet Autonomous Region for Not Believing in Religion (for trial implementation)” comprehensively detailing the prohibitions on the religious practices for party members in the “Tibet Autonomous Region”. This code forbids party members from engaging in religious activity both in public and private life, including “advising their religious family members and relatives to not set up altars, place religious objects, hang religious pictures and photos of religious personalities at home”.

Due to the Chinese government’s strict control and severe restrictions on the flow of information out of Tibet there have been limited or no reports or information over the implementation of the ban until now. The report of the ban imposed on the party members of the Tsolho TAP under this decree indicates and illustrates pervasive enforcement of the ban since it was introduced.

“Code of Conduct for Communist Party Members in the Tibet Autonomous Region for Not Believing in Religion” required the party members to adhere to Marxism materialism and atheism. They are also required to be fully loyal to the party and its constitution and advise their family members to realise that religion is incompatible with the Party’s founding principles and mission.

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