The Department of Information & International Relations (DIIR) expresses deep concern over a new Chinese regulation set to take effect on September 1, 2023. This regulation, known as "Order Number 19," issued by China's State Administration for Religious Affairs, marks a significant escalation in the ongoing crackdown on religious freedom within Tibet and across China.
Released on July 31, 2023, by the United Front Work Department of the PRC government, Order Number 19 imposes strict requirements on religious institutions such as temples, monasteries, and mosques. These institutions are now required to obtain official permission for any religious activities aimed at strengthening Chinese nationalism. Such activities include promoting Chinese language and fostering "ethnic unity."
The coercive measures outlined in Order Number 19 aim to enhance the Chinese government's control over Tibetan Buddhist cultural and political affairs, reported Tibet.net. Notably, Article 27 of the regulation mandates that the management organizations of religious sites must consist of individuals loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and they must be mainland residents with Chinese nationality. Tibetan monasteries that refuse to denounce the Dalai Lama or express loyalty to him, considered "separatist" by the PRC, are particularly vulnerable to crackdowns under this unlawful regulation
Despite Buddhism being one of China's officially recognized religions, constitutional protections for "normal religious activities" have been frequently redefined and misinterpreted by the Chinese government. Order Number 19 further broadens the definition of activities that "endanger national security" or "disrupt social order," making Tibetan Buddhist cultural and traditional practices susceptible to illegal persecution at the government's discretion.
Since 1994, the PRC has conducted "patriotic re-education" campaigns in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, urging loyalty to the State and the denunciation of the Dalai Lama. Additional regulations like "Order No. 8" and "Order No. 5" have increased government control over Tibetan monasteries and the process of selecting important Buddhist lamas, including the Dalai Lama's successor.
China's "Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism" policy prioritizes loyalty to the Communist Party over religious beliefs. It has led to restricted access to religious sites, bans on gatherings, destruction of religious symbols, indoctrination of Tibetan clergy, persecution of monks and nuns, and detention of Tibetans engaged in religious activities or possessing Dalai Lama portraits. Moreover, nearly one million Tibetan children are forcibly enrolled in Chinese boarding schools, depriving them of their Tibetan language, culture, and religious education.
The PRC government repeatedly exerts its intent to interfere in the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, claiming it has the ultimate authority to appoint his successor, which is historically and traditionally untrue, and thus, have been rejected by the Tibetan, Buddhist, and the international community. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in a 2011 statement, clearly stated that the person who reincarnates has sole legitimate authority over where and how he or she takes rebirth and how that reincarnation is to be recognised. Therefore, the ultimate authority of his reincarnation remains with His Holiness and no other government or individual.
In response to the worsening situation in Tibet, the international community is urged to strengthen partnerships and allies to address the PRC's tight control over religious practices and teachings. China must be pressed to uphold international obligations and its constitution to protect religious freedom for Tibetans. Meaningful dialogue, based on the Middle-Way policy, without preconditions, between the PRC government and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is crucial to resolving long-standing issues within the Tibetan community.
Edited and collated by Team TRC