China accused of using Covid-19 pretext to deny religious freedom in Tibet

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet. (Photo courtesy: Xinhua)

(, Jan15’21) – China’s human rights record, already one of the world’s worst, only worsened during the past one year, said New York-based Human Rights Watch in its annual World Report 2021 released on Jan 13. The group’s annual review of human rights around the globe in particular highlighted issues arising from the “National Security Law” for Hong Kong, repression of Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs in forced labour camps, and censorship of reporting on the Coronavirus outbreak.

On Tibet, the group says authorities in Tibetan areas continued to severely restrict religious freedom, speech, movement, and assembly, and failed to redress popular concerns about the mining and land grabs by local officials, which often involves intimidation and unlawful use of force by security forces.

The report accuses China of using the coronavirus pandemic to deepen its advance into the private and devotional lives of Tibetans. The report takes note of the fact that Tibetans had been told to refrain from celebrating Losar – the Tibetan New Year – last year in the name of Covid-19 fight measure. The ban had major consequences on many freedoms of the Tibetan people from religious rights to cultural practices, it said, noting that major monasteries still remain closed for public.

The report notes that China had coerced half-a-million Tibetans into mass labour through a militarised system in the first 7-months of 2020, referring to a finding by Tibet and Uighur specialist Adrian Zenz.

The report condemns China’s regulations for the promotion of “Nationality Unity Model Areas” under which the Communist Party of China encouraged economic immigration into Tibet from other parts of China while phasing out Tibetan-medium instruction in primary schools.

Constant surveillance and intimidation prevented public protests, a goal emphasized repeatedly by leading officials, the report said.


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