The Chinese authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have re-launched a new wave of ‘patriotic re-education’ and ‘legal education’ campaigns targeted at Tibetan monastic institutions in the name of maintaining stability, enhancing unity, and promoting harmony in Tibet.
In the afternoon of 11 May 2012 at Lhasa, the TAR government held a meeting called “Mobilization Meeting on In-depth Legal Education Campaign in Tibetan Buddhist Temples” which marked the uniform and in-depth implementation of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) basic policy on religion and the rules and regulations passed by the State Religious Affairs Bureau in all the monasteries and nunneries in TAR, reported the Chinese government-owned website ChinaTibetNews.com.
Addressing the meeting, the TAR governor Pema Thinley said that widespread legal education campaigns have been launched in all the monasteries and nunneries in TAR after receiving instructions from the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council since March 2008 and the directives from the TAR CPC and the TAR government, The successful implementation of legal education campaigns, which teach the monks and nuns to love the Chinese motherland, take pride in national identity, legal and civic awareness, have contributed to the protection of long-term stability in the region, the TAR governor Pema Thinley was quoted as saying in the report.
The report also quoted Pema Thinley as saying that since the end of 2011, the TAR party committee and the TAR government have introduced various measures such as the Nine-Must-Haves in all the monasteries to strengthen and innovate the management policy of monasteries according to the law and to offer public service to the monks and nuns. The TAR governor also said that the recent conferring of awards on ‘model monasteries’ and ‘patriotic’ monks and nuns has greatly aroused the enthusiasm of many monks and nuns to contribute to social harmony and stability.
Further, the TAR governor said the “continued implementation of legal education in monasteries and nunneries is crucial for strengthening the management of monastic institutions and an important starting point for maintaining harmony and stability, adding that providing guidance to Tibetan Buddhism in adapting itself to a socialist society is an effective way to resist the infiltration and sabotage from the Dalai clique.”
The ‘patriotic re-education’ campaign was first started in 1996 in a number of monasteries and nunneries in TAR. The campaign is used as a tool to stabilize and to exert control over what the Chinese authorities term “the hotbed of dissent activities,” referring to the monastic institutions. Refusal to comply with the requirements of the re-education sessions have resulted in arrests and expulsion of monks and nuns; minor monks below the age of 18 had to discontinue their education after they were ordered to leave their monasteries. Since 2008, the Chinese authorities have introduced the innocuous-sounding ‘legal education’ campaign which is now increasingly being used as substitute semantic for the intrusive ‘patriotic re-education’ campaign. In the second half of 2011, the TAR authorities publicised the selection of what it called ‘model monasteries’ and ‘highly advanced and patriotic’ monks and nuns and implemented various programs such as the Nine Must Haves and The Six Ones to further strengthen its control over monasteries and nunneries.
After the widespread demonstrations in Tibet in 2008, control and surveillance on Tibetan monastic institutions have increased with the official work teams permanently stationed in monasteries and nunneries carrying out patriotic re-education and legal education campaigns. This has severely restricted the religious activities of monks and nuns who are arrested and expelled for not complying with the rules and regulations made by the party and government authorities.
Regular religious classes are cancelled to accommodate the legal education sessions run by the work teams in monasteries and nunneries. Movement of monks and nuns are severely restricted making it difficult for monks and nuns to go outside their monasteries and nunneries and to visit other sacred monasteries and religious lamas. Sometimes, such restrictions on movement have made it hard for the monks and nuns to purchase their daily necessities including groceries. These restrictions have forced many monks to flee their respective monasteries forcing many monasteries to close down.
On 30 September 2010, the State Religious Affairs Bureau held a meeting and issued a 44-point regulation called ‘Management Measures for Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and Temples’ to further control monastic activities. Also known as Order No. 8, the regulation went into effect on 1 November 2010. The regulation is aimed at creating clear distance between monastic institutions in Tibet and foreign influence and ‘separatist activities’. Monasteries and nunneries in Tibet having sister affiliations abroad are barred from maintaining any contacts. This has severely affected the traditional spiritual ties between Tibetan Buddhist practitioners in Tibet and abroad.
Since November 2011, the Chinese authorities have begun implementing coerive programs such as Nine Must Haves and The Six Ones to regulate and restrict the activities of monks and nuns. The Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, under the Nine Must Haves program, are required to hang the portraits of four Chinese Communist leaders and the Chinese national flag and to make available in the respective monasteries newspapers and television programs produced and published by the Chinese government. Further, the government would supply electricity and water to the monasteries as a welfare measure. The Democratic Management Committees which earlier used to oversee and decide on the management and activities of the monasteries have now been replaced by the Monastery Management Committees (MMCs), an unelected body whose staff are directly appointed by the party and the government. A Communist Party cell is embedded in every MMC.
Tibetan monasteries and nunneries have become a major area of crackdown for the Chinese authorities. After the introduction of various regulations and campaigns on after another by the authorities, the Tibetan monastic institutions have now become a regular base for the government to publicise its political propaganda. The continued implementation of forced ‘re-education’ campaigns has severely affected the normal functioning of Tibetan Buddhist institutions and the religious freedom of monks and nuns are consistently violated.