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Oral Statement made by TCHRD on behalf of International Fellowship of Reconciliation

Norzin Dolma presenting oral statement at 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
Norzin Dolma presenting oral statement at 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Oral Statement made by Norzin Dolma on behalf of International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

61st Session of the UN Commission on Human rights
5 April 2005

Item 11e: Civil & Political Rights including the question of Religious Intolerance

For the past several years, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) has regularly reported on matters concerning the gross and systematic violation of religious freedom in Tibet to the members of this commission.

This year we would like to draw attention to the publication of a booklet, entitled “Strike Hard Campaign: China’s Crackdown on Political Dissidence, by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). The TC HRD has produced an authoritative account of the strategy and tactics employed by Chinese government officials to suppress political dissidence in Tibet.

In April 1996, the Chinese government launched the “Strike Hard” campaign in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Although in other parts of China the campaing was designed to combat crime, in Tibet it was directed against “splittist activity” and focused on the suppression of political dissent in religious institutions.

A major instrument of control in connection with the campaign has been “patriotic re-education”. The purpose of “patriotic re-education” is to adapt Tibetan Buddhism to socialist norms and to enforce regulations governing the management of monasteries and convents and the registration of resident clergy. Although the initial “Strike Hard” campaign officially ended in July 1996, in Tibet the campaign continued under the cover of “patriotic re-education”.

In practice, “patriotic re-education” is conducted by work teams, recruited from the Public Security Bureau, who visit religious institutions for extended periods of time and instruct the monks and nuns on the “proper” understanding of Tibetan religion and history. In the course of their training sessions, the teams strive to identify and expel those clergy members whom they deem unpatriotic and to extract loyalty pledges from the rest. The five-point loyalty oath includes a statement regarding the historical unity of Tibet and China, a denunciation of the Dalai lama, and the recognition of the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama. The work teams also establish “Democratic Management Committees” within the institutions whose task it is to monitor activities and to ensure that regulations put in place by the work teams are carried out.

The campaign has also introduced a number of other restrictive measures. It has imposed a ban on admitting monks and nuns under the age of 18 years and enforces a mandatory retirement age of 65 years. All other clergy are required to register with the local Democratic Management Committees which set a ceiling on the number of monks and nuns allowed to stay and study at the convents.

According to Chinese government sources, by September 1997, work teams had visited virtually all of the 1’787 monasteries and temples registered in Tibet and had “re-education” at least 30’000 of the estimated 46,000 monks and nuns had been expelled from their religious institutions, while 294 had been arrested with 14 deaths reported. In addition, at least six religious institutions were completely closed down.

In December 1997, the “patriotic re-education” campaign was extended to lay communities with work teams operating in agricultural communities, towns, cities, government organs, and schools. In 1998, the campaign was furthered extended to Tibetan religious institutions and lay communities in Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces. In 2000, the Chinese government announced that the “patriotic re-education” campaign had concluded.

In April 2001, however, the “Strike Hard” campaign was officially re-launched in the TAR and was extended to other Tibetan areas in China. One of the most dramatic interventions involved the Serthar Tibetan Buddhist Institute, located in Kardze Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Claiming overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, the local authorities issued an expulsion order for more than 7’000 resident students. Work teams carried out the order and eventually more than one thousand dwellings were destroyed and thousands of monks and nuns evicted.

By August 2004, the total number of number of resident clergy expelled from their institutions during the eight years of the campaign was estimated at 11’383.

Since its initial implementation in 1996, the “Strike Hard” campaign has had serious implications for the freedom of religion and belief in Tibet. “Patriotic re-education” has involved systematic measures of control over the religious community, including restrictions on teaching, mandatory loyalty oaths, expulsions, arbitrary arrest and detention, interrogation by torture, even death. Given the extent of the restrictions, especially those measures affecting the religious education of youth below the age of 18 years, the future of the Tibetan monastic tradition itself is in question.

In conclusion, the IFOR calls upon the members of the Commission:
to condemn the grave and systematic violation of religious freedom in Tibet;
to request the Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion and Belief to visit -China with a view to investigate the effects of the campaign of “patriotic re-education” on religious and lay communities in Tibet.

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