REPORT: Citing new repressive religious Sinicization moves in Tibet, US vows action on violators

From left, Congressional-Executive Commission on China members Marco Rubio, Chris Smith, Vicky Hartzler and James McGovern discussing the annual report on Wednesday in Washington. (Photo courtesy: SCMP/Owen Churchill)

(, Jan10’20) – While reiterating its annual indictment of China over the past many years, the United States’ Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) has on Jan 8 called on the Congress and the Trump Administration to bring pressure on China to ensure that it stayed out of the Dalai Lama’s succession plans, allow unrestricted access to Tibet and recognize the role Chinese policies play in Tibetan self-immolations.

These were part of the CECC’s recommendations in the Tibet section of its annual report which was released Jan 8. The report covered the period from Aug 2018 to Aug 2019. CECC Chair Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Co-Chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were cited as saying human rights and the rule of law in China had “continued to worsen” over the past year.

Addressing a press conference on the report’s release, McGovern has highlighted China’s persecution of Tibetan Buddhists and noted that a proposed Tibetan Policy and Support Act could be taken up by the full House of Representatives next week following its passage by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Dec 18, 2019. A Senate version was introduced by Rubio and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md). The Act criticizes China’s coercive meddling in the Dalai Lama reincarnation process while recognizing the primacy of the Tibetan spiritual leader’s wishes on the matter.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s annual report calls for the Trump administration to raise China’s human rights record in every interaction with Beijing. (Photo courtesy: SCMP/Owen Churchill)

McGovern has made it clear that the US would not limit itself to condemning the Chinese government move but will take concrete actions. He has said: “The notion that a government can come in and appoint a religious leader and that it would have any credibility at all is ridiculous. It is ridiculous. We find all of this very offensive as people who believe in religious freedom. But here’s the deal: What’s changing now is that China needs to know there’ll be a consequence. It will be more than just a press release saying that we object to this. It will be a consequence, and it will be people who will be sanctioned, and that there will be other consequences as well. We want a good relationship with China, we want a productive relationship with China. We have no quarrel with the Chinese people. It is with Chinese leaders who are trying to suppress individuals’ right to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to be able to be who they want to be.”

The report records findings of Chinese government crackdown on previously allowed religious practices in Tibet and its efforts to “Sinicize” Tibetan Buddhism, meaning to forcefully bring it under direct control of the Chinese Communist Party. These included subjecting monks and nuns to “political education”; banning religious classes; and ordering Tibetans to replace photos of the Dalai Lama with images of Mao Zedong and current Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping. The report noted that Tibetans were even made to prostrate and make offerings before the portraits of top atheist Chinese leaders.

On the issue of China’s coercive meddling in the process for the recognition of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, the report said, “The [Chinese] government’s position violates international standards of religious freedom, which guarantee the right of religious communities ‘to train, appoint, elect or designate by succession appropriate leaders.”

Rubio has said at the press conference: “Throughout last year, Chinese authorities subjected Tibetans to a continuing campaign of Sinicization to make Tibetan Buddhism supportive of the Communist Party of China. Religious leaders were forced into political education classes, monks were evicted from their monasteries, and portraits of the Dalai Lama were replaced by those of Mao and Xi Jinping.”

On Xinjiang, the report said, “The Commission believes Chinese authorities may be committing crimes against humanity, against the Uighur people and other Turkic Muslims.”

And CECC member Representative Chris Smith was quoted as saying, “We are talking about crimes against humanity on a massive scale.”


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