75th birthday of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and violations of religious freedom in Tibet

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

''The Dalai Lama is not merely a religious figure, he is also a mastermind of separatist activities. No sovereign country in the world would allow the hanging of a portrait of a person like that.''

Deputy secretary of the Communist Party in Tibet and vice-chairman of the regional government Hao Peng to foreign press on 1 July 2010

In Chinese-occupied Tibet people face grave consequences if they publicly celebrate the 75th birthday of their exiled spiritual leader and head of state the Dalai Lama on 6 July 2010. Many people in Tibet are too frightened of the consequences to speak to researchers about the occasion and conditions surrounding it. Public displays of loyalty to His Holiness can result in punishments as severe as detention and torture.

In Tibet people are forbidden from marking the Dalai Lama’s birthday by praying for his long life or burning incense for him, as is traditional for Tibetan Buddhists; nor can they carry or display a photograph of him without fear of punishment by the occupying Chinese regime.

“They [the Chinese administration] are putting the monks and nuns in prison-like conditions, depriving them the opportunity to study and practice in peace... to deliberately annihilate Buddhism.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, March 2010

Monks, nuns, lay-people and even children are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama in Chinese government-run programmes known as patriotic re-education. Other elements of re-education include swearing allegiance to China and placing it before their Buddhist religion. The penalties for refusing to participate in the re-education programme include fines, beatings, expulsion from a monastery or nunnery.

“Tibetans are being forced to denounce their most revered religious leader. This constitutes a gross violation by China of their right to religious freedom.”

Stephanie Brigden, Director, Free Tibet

In a recent foreign press trip to Tibet, organised by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, journalists met Norgye, a monk who had undergone, in his own words, “education about the law” after he interrupted another government-organised trip in Jokhang Temple, Lhasa in 2008 to shout about the lack of freedom. He now says: “Through education, I realised that what I did was wrong and lawless”. These efforts to rebrand patriotic re-education as ‘legal education’ do not change the fact that the Chinese administration is trying to change Tibetan people’s personal religious beliefs which constitutes a violation of the universal right to religious freedom.

Ends

Notes to Editor

Free Tibet evidence on violations in Tibet of the right to freedom of religion, as presented to the Conservative Party Commission on Human Rights, July 2010, is available in full on request from stephanie@freetibet.org

Free Tibet is an international campaigning organisation that stands for the right of Tibetans to determine their own future. We campaign for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected. Founded in 1987, Free Tibet generates active support through public education about the situation in Tibet. We are independent of all governments and are funded by our members and supporters.

For further information please contact Stephanie Brigden

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