Oct 15, 2014

Tibet: Buddhist Places and Symbols Targeted by Chinese Authorities

A few days after the Chinese government made clear that they want the Dalai Lama to give up his position as the Tibetan spiritual leader, the local Chinese authorities in Tibet started a campaign to suppress the Tibetan religion. This campaign will last from 20 September to 20 October 2014 and intends to destroy Tibetan “spiritual buildings” before they become symbols of resistance.

Below is an article published by Asia News:

The local government of Tibet has launched a "Rectification and Cleansing" campaign which involves the destruction of religious buildings and places of Buddhist prayer "built too recently". The authorities have banned the monasteries from accepting young people under 12, and the hundreds of children who are already studying as is tradition in places of worship "have to return home, or be forcibly deported". 

The campaign that is seeking to suppress the Tibetan religion - led by the Dalai Lama in exile - started on 20 September [2014] and will end on 20 October 2014. A 30 page document was distributed to the local Communist officials to explain their new "instructions". The epicenter is the Driru, county considered a hotbed of Tibetan resistance to the Chinese presence in the province.

A local source, speaking to the Tibetan daily Phayul, says: " All new stupas, mounds of mani stones [stones displaying carved mantras], and shrines built after 2010 have been declared illegal and must be destroyed by a specified deadline". The destruction "those who have originally built all religious structures must take them down, failing which the government would bring them down. It has also been ordered that retreat facilities built after Nov. 1, 2011, including houses for individual retreatants, must be torn down".

The dates set are not random. The county that is being targeted by the campaign was home to several monks who also self-immolated in the provincial capital, Lhasa: suicides by fire have spiked since 2010. The stupas are "spiritual buildings" typical of Buddhism and usually house the relics of Buddhist saints and martyrs, and the government believes that in the new places of worship are the remains of those who killed themselves in protest against Beijing oppression. This is why they want to see them destroyed before they can become symbols of resistance.

However, authorities are also targeting tradition Tibetan education. The government has ordered all monks under 12 years of age to return home - by October 29th [2014] - or they will be forcibly removed from the monasteries where they live. In Buddhist tradition young boys are sent to the monasteries to receive a basic grounding in the faith: once they reach puberty they decide whether they wish to remain to become a monk or return home.

This latest campaign against the Buddhist places and symbols echoes the demolition campaign against Christian churches and crosses in Southern China, where in the name of urban redevelopment protestant and catholic places of worship that had all of their documents and permits in order are being destroyed.