Ti­bet Com­mu­nist Party chief de­mands that monas­ter­ies dis­play Chi­nese flags


Ti­bet’s Com­mu­nist Party chief has de­manded that Bud­dhist monas­ter­ies dis­play the na­tional flag as part of ef­forts to shore up Chi­nese con­trol over the restive re­gion.

In an ed­i­to­rial ap­pear­ing in state news­pa­pers, Chen Quan­guo wrote that na­tional flags should be among the key el­e­ments found in monas­ter­ies.

De­mands to dis­play Chi­nese flags have fre­quently sparked protests by Ti­betans who com­plain of heavy-handed Chi­nese rule. Ti­betan monks and nuns are among the most ac­tive op­po­nents of Chi­nese rule in the re­gion and face some of the harsh­est re­stric­tions on their ac­tiv­i­ties.

Chen also called for step­ping-up legal and pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion in the monas­ter­ies — par­tic­u­larly on China’s reg­u­la­tions and re­stric­tions on re­li­gious life and in­sti­tu­tions — along with ac­tiv­i­ties to se­lect model tem­ples, nuns and monks who dis­play “ad­vanced pa­tri­o­tism and obe­di­ence to law.”

“Let the broad masses of monks and nuns be even more con­scious of pa­tri­o­tism, obe­di­ence to law, and the pro­mo­tion of re­li­gious har­mony,” Chen wrote. “Guide them in the adap­tion of Ti­betan Bud­dhism to so­cial­ist so­ci­ety.”

The flag dis­play de­mand vi­o­lates Ti­betan Bud­dhist tra­di­tion and un­der­scores the ex­tent of China’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­trol all as­pects of the reli­gion, said Bhuchung Tser­ing, vice pres­i­dent of the Lon­don-based ad­vo­cacy group In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign for Ti­bet.

“While China con­tin­ues to tell the world that Ti­betans en­joy re­li­gious free­dom and au­ton­omy, its top of­fi­cial in Lhasa is en­gaged in an ide­o­log­i­cal cam­paign to turn Ti­betan monas­ter­ies into ‘pa­tri­otic cen­ters,’” he said in a state­ment.

Chen also said that news­pa­pers, tele­vi­sion, tele­phones and wa­ter and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions should be made avail­able in monas­ter­ies. He said mea­sures would be taken to im­prove health care, stipends and pen­sions for monks and nuns to per­mit them to “per­son­ally feel the con­cern and warmth of the party and gov­ern­ment.”

Chen’s de­mand was con­tained in a lengthy ed­i­to­rial that first ap­peared Wed­nes­day in the party flag­ship Peo­ple’s Daily and was reprinted in other pa­pers on Thurs­day.

China claims Ti­bet has been part of its ter­ri­tory for seven cen­turies, but many Ti­betans say they were ef­fec­tively in­de­pen­dent for most of that time. Com­mu­nist forces oc­cu­pied the re­gion in 1951 fol­low­ing victory in the Chi­nese civil war.

Bud­dhist clergy ob­jects par­tic­u­larly to de­mands to take part in pa­tri­otic ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties to en­force loy­alty to the Com­mu­nist Party, com­plain­ing that they waste time and re­sources from their re­li­gious stud­ies.

Those ac­tiv­i­ties and other re­stric­tions were in­ten­si­fied af­ter the 2008 ri­ots in Ti­bet’s cap­i­tal Lhasa sparked wide­spread protests across Ti­betan ar­eas. Troops were sta­tioned in monas­ter­ies and monks and nuns deemed po­lit­i­cally sus­pect were forced out.

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