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China imparting 'patriotic education' to Tibetan monks and nuns infuriates region's religious leaders

Six decades after establishing its hold on the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), China has now started meddling with the religious training imparted to the Buddhist monks and nuns residing in the area. They are later made to undergo tests, ostensibly to improve their legal awareness. Translated loosely, that should be taken to mean they are required to prove their allegiance to the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Buddhism has always been perceived by the Chinese as one of the most formidable hurdles en route exercising total control over Tibet.

The CPC has, therefore, been unsparing about killing and incarcerating monks on grounds as flimsy as possession of Dalai Lama’s pictures, demolishing monasteries and destroying ancient sacred texts.

As a part of Chinese measures aimed at exercising greater control over all forms of religious activity in TAR, 30,000 Buddhist monks and nuns were required to undergo a test. They were grilled for their knowledge of the Chinese constitution, anti-espionage and anti-terrorism activities and regulations pertaining to practising religion, as per a report published in China’s official publication Global Times.

 China imparting patriotic education to Tibetan monks and nuns infuriates regions religious leaders

Representational image. Reuters

The justice department of the regional government insists that the purpose of the test was to reinforce the notion that abiding by law comes before adhering to religious tenets and that laws of the land are superior to religious regulations.

Systemic Chinese attempts at indoctrinating Tibetan monks and nuns

The Chinese government now wants to train the monastic subjects to integrate the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism with the ethos of Chinese supremacy through Democratic Management Committees (DMCs) which have been set up within monasteries and nunneries in TAR.

The DMCs serve as government agents and are instrumental in implementing the policies and directives laid down by the CPC from time to time. These DMCs work hand-in-hand with ‘work teams’ designated to carry out the tasks of ‘political education and investigation.’

These work teams routinely move into monasteries and nunneries on the pretext or arranging meetings and discussions or conducting surveillance. These are all parts of ‘patriotic re-education campaign’ which was officially started in 1996.

The DMC officials evoke terror in the life of these spiritual trainees by forcing them to sign a five-point pledge which includes denouncing the Dalai Lama while branding him as a secessionist, accepting the Panchen Lama appointed by China as their real authority and admitting that Tibet has historically been a part of China.

Political and ideological ‘education’ is imparted to these monks and nuns, as a part of which they are required to study books like Chinese version of Tibetan history, books on policies of the Chinese government, books opposing separatist tendencies, and others meant to make them ‘good and law-abiding’ citizens.

The CPC regularly conducts workshops wherein monastic communities are trained to stay loyal besides brainwashing the religious cadres into believing that knowing the law of the land can help them become 'patriotic, good monks'.

“Knowledge of the laws can make me patriotic good monk, regulate my behaviour and help us all obey Buddhist commandments better,” as testified by Ngawang, a monk from Sera monastery, one of the three main monasteries in Lhasa, much earlier.

“Killing someone, for example, is not only against the law of the land,” he is reported to have said. “It also violates the basic Buddhist principles.”

A booklet titled 'Why Tibet is Burning…' published by the Tibet Policy Institute elaborates, “Monks and nuns are made to recite: I oppose Dalai Lama and his clique; I will not keep the Dalai’s photo in my house; my thinking will not be influenced by the Dalai clique; I love the Communist Party, etc.”

DMCs and work teams together carry out written exams for monks and nuns after imparting them 'patriotic education'. Monks and nuns are asked to answer questions like: Why must you oppose Dalai Lama and other separatists? How can you show your love for your motherland? What is the most important political responsibility of TAR?

Why Tibetan religious experts are furious

"Since many years, the Chinese government has been conducting patriotic re-education and examinations for Tibetan monks and nuns. The examination includes questions on the Chinese version of the history of Tibet and denouncing His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a separatist,” points out Sonam Norbu Dagpo, the official spokesperson of Mcleodganj-based Tibetan government-in-exile.

As per the current report, 98 percent of those appearing for the test managed to clear it. There is no mention about the nature of punitive action initiated against those who failed to do so.

Earlier in 2014, 26 nuns were expelled from Palden Kharkyodling Nunnery in Driru (eastern Tibet) for refusing to denounce Dalai Lama and non-compliance with the political agenda which has now become an integral part of their monastic education.

Dagpo agrees. “These monks and nuns are then forced to pledge their support for the Communist Party of China and praise the Communist party leaders. In case of failure to do so, they could be expelled from the monasteries and nunneries. And perhaps even arrested.”

Sensing that religion is and will continue to be an integral part of any Tibetan’s life, the CPC has now started entrusting the religious leaders with the task of propagating the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism in a manner that will justify and reassert Chinese presence in the area.

"In their pursuit of gaining total control over Tibet, the Communist Party of China is keen on firmly subjugating Tibetan monks and nuns in Tibet. This naive and wishful thinking of the state has led to a systematic and continuous violation of the Tibetan people's rights, and their Freedom of Religion over the years,” according to Dukthen Kyi, Head of Human Rights Desk, Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

There is, of course, nothing wrong in requiring the monks and nuns to be aware of the law of the land and various legal procedures. What has stirred up Tibetan sentiment is the blatant manner in which the clergy, apart from other Tibetans, is being forced to display portraits of President Xi Jinping and other Chinese political leaders on their altars and forced to prostrate and make offerings while compelling them to remove those of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“What kind of 'democratic reform' China is claiming to have achieved in Tibet when the core sentiments of the Tibetan people are crushed, their rights infringed, and their voices suppressed?” Kyi wants to know.

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Updated Date: Apr 08, 2019 17:24:17 IST

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