Chinese oppression against Tibetans continues unabated

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Tibetan monks have been beaten up and arrested for ‘leaking info’ after being forced to watch the demolition of a giant Buddha statue in Drakgo, Tibet. Chinese authorities after destroying a 99-foot-tall Buddha statue in Drakgo, have arrested 11 monks from Drakgo’s Gaden Namgyal Ling monastery for sending news and photos outside Tibet about the destruction.

The Buddha statue was established in 2015 with the financial support of local Tibetans to prevent the region from famine, war, and catastrophes of fire, water, earth, and air. It was for the wellbeing of all.

The US State Department has voiced “deep concern” at reports of the statue’s destruction. It said in a statement, “(We) continue to urge PRC authorities to respect the human rights of Tibetans and the preservation of Tibet’s environment as well as the unique cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of Tibetan traditions.”

The statement further said, “We will work with our partners and allies to press Beijing to cease on-going abuses against Tibetans and return to direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his Tibetan representatives, without preconditions, to resolve differences.”

Sophie Richardson, China director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, added that China’s demolition of the statue and crackdown on Tibetans sharing news of its destruction show that “religious believers cannot rely on legal or constitutional safeguards of their faith”.

China in its current phase of “ultranationalist and statist ideology gives all power to the state, and regards civil society with suspicion and contempt,” Richardson said.

The international condemnation of the destruction of Buddha’s statue has not deterred China form committing brutalities against the peace loving Tibetan monks.

There are reports that new restrictions have now been imposed on Tibetans following the statue’s demolition. Tibetans are not being allowed to hang prayer flags outside their doors. And their fireplaces, which are sometimes used for purification rituals, are also being destroyed in gross violation of their human rights.

Media sites giving source based stories from Tibet are reporting that the Chinese police are now beating Tibetans on unreasonable excuses such as not having ‘a proper expression’ on their face. Some Tibetans are being made to stand outside in the cold weather and are then released without explanation.

The shattering of the Buddha statue in Tibet is the latest in a series of crackdowns which amount to cultural genocide by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Chinese with their suppression of Tibetan religion and culture are adopting tactics used by the oppressive Taliban, when they destroyed numerous religious artefacts in Afghanistan during their first reign there. This amounts to violations of freedom of thought, conscience and religion in Tibet as espoused in Article 18 of the Universal declaration of Human Rights.

Along with destroying the Buddha statue, Chinese authorities destroyed 45 huge prayer wheels too erected near Drakgo monastery, which are close to the heart of every devout Tibetan. Large vertical prayer flags were also removed from their staves and burned, causing much fear and agony in the minds of Tibetans.

Spinning the prayer wheels, which contain scrolls of scriptures with Buddhist mantras into a clockwise rotation for the well-being of others, is a very old tradition of Tibetans. It has also been part of Tibetan Buddhist culture to erect statues of Buddha to ward off misfortunes and put up prayer flags for good luck.

Demolishing Buddhist statues and structures, destroying prayer wheels and the prayer flags most disrespectfully is an attack on the centuries-long traditions of Tibetans and amounts to grave violation of their fundamental human rights.

Tibetans and monks are horrified how their culture, tradition and religion is destroyed so brutally by the Chinese. They view it as a cultural revolution like crackdown as their religion, culture, language and traditions are brutally crushed. This attempt by Beijing to wipe off Tibetan culture is the worst kind of brutality. Tibetans are denied the right to practice their religion and follow their traditions.

Even more serious than this is that Tibetans have no right to even protest against these Chinese atrocities which include intensified campaign against the Dalai Lama, expansion of legal measures tightening state control over Tibetan religion and destroying symbols of religion and culture as happened in Drakgo.

If Tibetans dare to protest, then they face a torturous future, amounting to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and inhumane treatment or punishment. A large number of Tibetans have taken to an extreme measure of protest, they have set themselves on fire in Tibet, including students, monks, nuns and farmers.

Tibetans have been using self-immolation as a means to show their resentment against Chinese crackdown.

The PRC has been keeping a tight control over religious practice and teachings in Tibetan areas with the aim of maintaining the supremacy and authority of the Chinese Communist Party.

For CCP, ‘acceptable’ religious behaviour and religion is that which does not interfere with or challenge the legitimacy and status of the Party. If exercise of religious freedom is detrimental to the broader political concerns of the state, it will duly be suppressed. The authority of the CCP is supreme.

CCP leadership’s stated policy regarding Tibetan Buddhism is to “keep it in line with the socialist society” and this was clearly stated by then president of PRC Hu Jintao in 2011. From 1994 onwards, the Chinese authorities have been following an aggressive campaign against the Dalai Lama, including prohibitions on the display of his photographs and obligation for monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama.

Many Tibetans who have self-immolated have attempted to highlight their religious persecution even through their death. Some have self-immolated beside a stupa or a monastery. Others have self-immolated during prayer ceremonies. One such incident, which was widely reported in 2013, when two Tibetans set fire to themselves and died on February

24 and 25 at monasteries in eastern Tibet where pilgrims had gathered for Losar, a period of particular religious significance for Tibetans.

Regulations to control monasteries and religious activities in the Tibetan areas have been only tightening. In November, 2011, China announced a new structure of Monastery Management Committees, which were headed by party cadres and government and thus it began to control all religious places of Tibetan Buddhists.

Chinese authorities have been devising harsh measures to control Tibetans. One such major crackdown was reported during January 2012, when hundreds of Tibetans were detained upon their return from India after attending a major religious teaching by the Dalai Lama and subjected to “re-education”. Since then, Tibetans who return from India are arbitrarily held in detention centres, while many disappear, causing unbearable pain and psychological, financial pressure on families.

Chinese authorities regularly persecute Tibetan monks and nuns, equating them with ‘separatists’.

After peaceful protests in Lhasa during March 2008, three senior Drepung monks Jampel Wangchuk, Konchok Nyima and Ngawang Choenyi were detained, two of whom have subsequently received sentences of life and 20 years.

In June 2012, a senior Tibetan monk Yonten Gyatso, who went missing for eight months since his arbitrary arrest in October 2011, had been sentenced to seven years in prison for sharing pictures and information regarding self- immolation by a nun Tenzin Wangmo.

In July 2021, Human Rights Watch gave details of a 61-page report from Chinese authorities titled, ‘Prosecute Them with Awesome Power’: China’s Crackdown on Tengdro Monastery and Restrictions on Communications in Tibet, which exposed for the first time the government’s crackdown on Tibetan monks in the little-known Tengdro monastery. Four monks were prosecuted and given harsh sentences, up to 20 years in prison for dubious offences.

The four monks — Choegyal Wangpo, Lobsang Jinpa, Norbu Dondrup, and Ngawang Yeshe — received sentences of 20, 19, 17, and 5 years, respectively, and their crime was just that they had sent messages abroad or made humanitarian donations outside China. The Tengdro monks’ case demonstrates the arbitrary and extreme manner in which restrictions on online communications are being enforced throughout Tibetan areas.

The Human Rights Watch has been highlighting the plight of Tibetans and it has appealed to concerned governments and the United Nations to pressurise China to respect Tibetans’ human rights.

A similar call was given in June 2020 by 50 UN human rights experts to establish a standing monitoring mechanism on China at the UN.

The Tibetans are suffering day and night as their way of life and religious beliefs are crushed in a systematic manner. They hope and pray in vain that the world community would speak for them so that the Chinese oppression in Tibet comes to an end.

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