(TibetanReview.net, Aug14, 2016) – The US government has on Aug 10 severely criticized China for its deplorable record on religious freedom in 2015, institutionalizing discrimination in the case of ethnic minority groups such as Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims. Releasing its International Religious Freedom Report for 2015, which examined the state of religious freedom in more than 200 countries, the US State Department said that the Chinese government ignored its constitutional mandate that allowed citizens the “freedom of religious belief”. Instead the government restricted religious practices it deemed a threat to the nation or the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the report added.
The report said, “Religious and ethnic minority groups, such as Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims, experienced institutionalized discrimination throughout the country both because of their religious beliefs and their status as ethnic minorities with distinct languages and cultures.”
As in the case of the situation in Xinjiang, the report found that “tensions … continued among ethnic and religious groups in Tibetan areas, particularly between Han Chinese and Tibetans, and, in some areas, between Tibetans and Hui Muslims.”
The report noted that while it appeared that Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims often bore the brunt of religious persecution in China, Christians were also suffering.
In the case of Tibet, the report said police detained students, monks, laypersons, and others in many Tibetan areas who called for freedom, human rights, and religious liberty, or who expressed support for the Dalai Lama or solidarity with individuals who had self-immolated. It added that restrictions were particularly severe around politically and religiously sensitive anniversaries and events.
The report referred to the case of prominent Buddhist reincarnate lama and political prisoner Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who died in prison on Jul 12, after serving 13 years of a life sentence, and who was denied a proper funeral service. It also referred to the case of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, Tibetan Buddhism’s second-most prominent religious figure, who has remained disappeared ever since he was taken away by the Chinese authorities in 1995 at the age of six.
The report referred to numerous reports saying that Chinese officials frequently pressured monks and laypeople, including government officials, to greet and attend sessions presided over by Gyaltsen Norbu, the substitute 11th Panchen Lama appointed by the government.
Releasing the report, Deputy Secretary of State Mr Antony J Blinken said the purpose of the annual report was not to lecture but to “inform, to encourage, and ultimately, to persuade”. While noting that bigotry and intolerance could be found in every part of the world, including the United States, it was worthwhile pointing out, “every country has an obligation to respect religious liberty and freedom of conscience; we encourage every country to do so.”
The report cited numerous reports from internationally respected human rights groups and news media and numerous other sources to substantiate its findings, apparently to address China’s routine assertion that such reports contain nothing but baseless allegations.