International rights groups and Tibetan government-in-exile officials say Chinese President Xi Jinping’s latest calls to âsinizeâ Tibetan Buddhism threaten Tibetan identity and culture.
Xi’s comments came at a recent high-level Communist Party meeting on the future governance of Tibet, where the president said Beijing must build an “impregnable fortress” to maintain stability in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR ) and the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces. He also called for strengthening China’s national security by educating the masses in the fight against “splittism” or by deviating from official party policies.
China has long viewed Tibetan Buddhism as a source of âseparatist power,â which Beijing has targeted with âre-educational patriotismâ campaigns that force Tibetan monks to denounce the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
For the past decade or so, Communist Party of China (CCP) officials have been stationed in major TAR monasteries and communities closer to China, such as Larung Gar in Sichuan Province, one of the main centers. study of Tibetan Buddhism to the world.
Xi’s wish to build a “new modern socialist Tibet that is united, prosperous, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful” would be achieved primarily through secondary education reforms that “would sow the seeds of love for China at most. deep in the heart of every young person â. “actively [guiding] Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to socialist society and promote the sinization of Tibetan Buddhism, âXi said.
Disrespect the faith
Broadly defined, Sinization is a campaign to reform or mold the belief systems and doctrine of any religious denomination in line with CPC values.
In 2015, Xi discussed a plan to sinicize the beliefs of the five largest religious groups in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.
Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson told VOA’s Tibetan service that Xi’s latest remarks on faith are a wake-up call to rights monitors.
âXi’s sinicization campaign is a model of anti-rights policy, especially when it comes to religious freedom,â Richardson said. âIndividuals are free to believe what they like and worship as they see fit; they are not rights that states can give, take away or dictate in any other way.
âNo one is fooled by his claims that these policies respect Tibetans or Buddhism,â she said.
Dharamshala-based Karma Choeying, spokesperson for the Tibetan government-in-exile, said Xi’s remarks are just the latest in a decades-long campaign to control not only Tibetan Buddhism, but Tibetan culture itself. .
“This is about sinizing Tibet,” he told VOA, speaking in Tibetan.
âThey have been trying to do this for 60 years and now President Xi Jinping says they need to try harder,â Choeying said. “It is to sinize the Tibetan identity, religion and culture.”
China took control of Tibet in 1950 in what it described as a “peaceful liberation” that helped the remote Himalayan region shed its “feudalist” past. But critics, led by the Dalai Lama, say the Beijing regime amounts to “cultural genocide.”
âXi Jinping’s plan to further tighten his grip on occupied Tibet is yet another desperate attempt to continue the colonial exploitation of China for decades,â said Dorjee Tseten, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, based At New York.
âChina’s plan to further Sinicize Tibetan Buddhism threatens the existence of Tibetan’s unique identity and culture,â Tseten told VOA. âThis plan will never be accepted by the Tibetans and will lead to stronger resistance. “
Matteo Mecacci, director of the US-based International Campaign for Tibet, recently told Reuters that Xi’s remarks were an indication of China’s failure to integrate Tibet into Chinese society.
“If Tibetans really benefited as much from Chinese leadership as Xi and other officials claim, then China would not have to fear separatism and would not need to subject Tibetans to political re-education,” he said. he said in an email, according to Reuters.
Remarks follow the clashes
China’s increased efforts to integrate the TAR, which borders India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma), coincide with a recent wave of deadly border skirmishes with Indian troops. A clash in late June along an unmarked stretch of border in the Galwan Valley left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an undisclosed number of Chinese casualties.
Military and diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation have so far proved unsuccessful.
China’s strategies to integrate Tibet have also targeted other cultural institutions, such as marriage. In 2014, Chen Quanguo, then secretary of the TAR CCP, declared that “the government must actively promote intermarriage” between Tibetans and Chinese in order to promote “ethnic unity”.
“Completely correct” deletion
China has also used forced re-education, detention, torture and intimidation as tools to achieve “stability.”
In 2019, VOA obtained a leak from the diary of a Tibetan detainee in one of the “reform through re-education” camps which shows that the use of torture in the camps is a regular practice. Beijing has used similar tactics against Muslim Uyghurs who are prisoners in Xinjiang.
Xi’s speech on Saturday was the main speech at the Seventh Tibet Working Forum. The rally coincided with the 55th anniversary of the founding of the TAR, marked by the establishment of the Regional People’s Congress on September 1, 1965.
During his speech, Xi showed no sign of willingness to engage in a dialogue proposed by the Tibetan government in exile and the Dalai Lama. Instead, he indicated that recent intransigent policies will continue.
“Practice has fully proven that the Party Central Committee’s policies on Tibet are quite correct, and that the sustained, stable and rapid development of Tibet is an important contribution to the overall work of the party and the country,” said Mr. Xi.
China’s policy toward Tibet has once again been in the limelight this year as ties between Washington and Beijing unravel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a press conference on Wednesday that the administration was “concerned about Chinese actions in Tibet, in light of recent calls by the secretary general to ‘sinise’ Tibetan Buddhism and fight separatism “over there”.
“We continue to call on Beijing to start a dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions, to reach a settlement that resolves their differences,” he said.
In July, Pompeo said the United States would restrict visas for some Chinese officials involved in blocking diplomatic access to Tibet and in “human rights violations”, adding that Washington supported “significant autonomy. “for Tibet. State Department sanctions against China have also focused on documented human rights violations in Hong Kong and against predominantly ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
In retaliation, China has said it will impose visa restrictions on US citizens who have engaged in what it called “blatant” behavior towards Tibet.
This story has its origins in the Tibetan service of VOA. Some information comes from Reuters.