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UN rights official criticizes China’s religious repression in Tibet, Xinjiang

Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (Photo courtesy: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)
Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (Photo courtesy: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)

(TibetanReview.net, Mar13, 2015) – Mr Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, has on Mar 11 criticised China for wanting to control the reincarnation of Tibetan monks, according to a Reuters report posted on channelnewsasia.com Mar 12.

His comments, made at as press briefing in Geneva, came two days after the Chinese-appointed head of legislature of the so-called autonomous region of Tibet alleged in Beijing that Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was profaning Buddhism by suggesting that he would not be reincarnated when he dies. He was parroting Zhu Weiqun, the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, who also told reporters in Beijing on Mart 11, “Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” meaning, atheist top communist party leaders.

Bielefeldt particularly criticized China’s crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in the far western region of Xinjiang, citing “disturbing stories” of harassment and intimidation against the ethnic minority.

“I heard, also, very disturbing stories about harassment, for instance, intimidation during Ramadan – children in schools were expected to break their fasting on Ramadan,” he was quoted as saying, referring to the month-long religious holiday when observant Muslims do not eat during the day.

Bielefeldt has said Beijing was “really destroying the autonomy of religious communities, poisoning the relationship between different sub-groups, creating schisms, pitching off people against each other in order to exercise control”.

Bielefeldt has also said there had been no progress on his office’s outstanding request to conduct an official visit to China, which was last agreed on in 2004. China has also not honoured an undertaking, given to the UN Human Rights Council, that it will allow a visit to Tibet and China by the UN High Commissioner for Human rights.

Bielefeldt believed Beijing’s crackdown on freedom of religion stemmed from nervousness from an “authoritarian” government of people coming together “outside of official channels”. “The Chinese government is a superpower in many regards but is weak in terms of democratic legitimacy,” he was quoted as saying.

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