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Blanket ban reported imposed on new admissions at a monastery in Tibet

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan04’24) – China has forbidden the admission of new monks at a monastery in the prefecture-level City of Chamdo in Tibet Autonomous Region as it continues to tighten religious activities under its ongoing Sinicization campaign, reported the Tibetan service of rfa.org Jan 3.

The Gelug Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Khyungbum Lura in Markham County currently has more than 80 monks and local residents have expressed fears that the new restriction may render it extinct eventually.

China already has a decades-long policy that limits the number of resident-monks in each monastery across Tibet, with those to be enrolled being required to be above 18 years of age and certified by the local police and government religious authority as pro-Communist Party of China patriots.

This is the first time Chinese authorities have prohibited the enrolment of monks of all ages, though previously only minors, or those below the age of 18, were restricted from joining the monastic order in Tibet, the report said, citing a local source speaking on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

The monastery was rebuilt by its former monks and local residents in early 1980’s after it was destroyed by the invading Chinese People’s Liberation Army at the turn of the second half of the last century.

The report cited two local sources as saying Chinese authorities had also installed a local administrator at the monastery to oversee its operations, replacing the senior monks who traditionally carried out that function. And they are said to have threatened to shut down the site if the monks failed to comply with the new rules and regulations on religious activities that are currently in operation.

“Without the regular intake of new monks, the move will lead to the eventual decline and closure of the monastery in the future, leaving local Tibetans with no nearby places of worship during important religious ceremonies and nobody to turn to carry out important prayers and rituals, particularly on the death of loved ones,” the sources have been quoted as saying.

The rules and regulations include “Regulations on Religious Affairs”, a set of rules on religious activities, personnel and sites updated in Nov 2017 and enforced by the National Religious Affairs Administration (NRAA).

There is also an  “Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy”, adopted by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) in Jan 2021, which requires religious personnel to support President Xi Jinping’s plans for the ”Sinicization of religion,” for “adaptation of religions to China’s socialist society”, and to work in accordance with the country’s national interest and ideology.

The NRAA, formerly the SARA, is an external name used by the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. It was formerly an executive agency directly under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China which oversaw religious affairs in the country. SARA was merged into the UFWD in 2018. The names of the former agency were retained by the UFWD as external names under the system called “one institution with two names”

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