In a world plagued by injustices and the trampling of fundamental human rights, one must remain vigilant and raise their voice against the oppressors. The recent State Department report, titled “2022 Report on International Religious Freedom,” serves as a damning testament to China’s continued oppression of Tibetan Buddhist practitioners. With meticulous detail, it reveals a harrowing tale of forced disappearances, arrests, physical abuse, and prolonged detentions without trial, all aimed at stifling the religious practices of Tibetans.
The report brings to light the alarming plight of two prominent figures in Tibetan Buddhism: the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama, abducted by Chinese authorities at the tender age of six, remains hidden from the public eye to this day, casting a shadow of uncertainty over his well-being and fate. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama, exiled from Tibet over six decades ago, continues to be the target of China’s refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue with his envoys. Such disregard for the spiritual leaders of a peaceful faith speaks volumes about the Chinese government’s lack of respect for religious freedom.
At the heart of this oppression lies China’s relentless campaign to erase Tibetan Buddhist identity. The report reveals how Chinese authorities coerce clergy and government employees to denounce the Dalai Lama, replacing his images with portraits of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders. Monasteries are subjected to intrusive scrutiny, forced to display portraits of CCP leaders, and banned from exhibiting any images of the Dalai Lama. In a heartbreaking instance, a Tibetan woman and her sister were arrested for possessing a simple photograph of the Dalai Lama on their home altar.
Furthermore, China’s assault extends beyond religious institutions to ordinary practitioners. The report highlights the government’s restrictions on Buddhist monasteries, evicting thousands of monks and nuns and subjecting them to “patriotic education” instead. The education of laypeople, particularly children, is also severely curtailed, with restrictions on attending religious festivals and pilgrimages. Shockingly, nearly one million Tibetan children have been forcibly separated from their families and sent to residential schools, where their Tibetan language and culture are threatened with extinction.
These gross violations of human rights demand a strong response from the international community. The United States has taken steps to counter China’s oppressive actions, such as imposing visa restrictions on Chinese officials involved in denying access to Tibet and passing legislation that supports the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination. Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya has rightly emphasized the urgency of the Dalai Lama’s succession, asserting that it should be determined solely by the Tibetan people without interference from China.
In this battle against China’s repression, the bipartisan Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act holds the promise of pushing China back to the negotiating table. By recognizing Tibetans’ right to self-determination and highlighting Tibet’s undetermined legal status, this bill reiterates the international community’s commitment to ending China’s oppressive policies. The importance of unified global action cannot be overstated. The United States, together with European allies and like-minded nations, must stand united against China’s continued assault on Tibetan culture, language, and religion.
We must heed the warnings embedded in history and not allow the sacrificial plum tree to overshadow the rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people. China’s attempts to eradicate Tibetan Buddhism and suppress the cultural identity of Tibetans are not only a violation of basic human rights but also a threat to the rich tapestry of our global heritage. Let us rally together, raise our voices, and strive for the restoration of religious freedom, cultural preservation, and human dignity for the people of Tibet.