In Saka Dawa month, China bans Tibetan officials from religious activities

DHARAMSHALA (PHAYUL): Chinese officials in Tibet have issued a strict warning, banning members of the Party, cadres, government officials and students from participating in religious activities, at a time when Tibetan Buddhists are observing the holy month of Saka Dawa.

The official Tibet Daily newspaper in a report on May 24, quoted the notification, issued by the so called Tibetan Autonomous Region Committee for Discipline Inspection and Supervision Department, as stating that participation in religious activities and rituals by Party members, cadres, and students amounts to “serious violations of political discipline and stability work” and severe punishment will be meted out accordingly.

The Dharamshala based rights group, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in a release late Friday pointed out that the notification specifically targeted Tibetans working for the Chinese government, who have “illegally crossed the border to attend religious teachings by the Dalai Lama,” warning them of “severe” actions.

“It also ordered the strengthening of supervision and inspection work ‘to uphold and enforce political discipline, [to] strictly and quickly investigate the behavior of party members and cadres who follow the Dalai Lama clique to undermine national unity, and endanger the unity of the motherland,’ adding that such offense would be ‘dealt with severely according to law,’ TCHRD said.

The notification clarified that the ‘struggle against separatism’, the ‘relationship between national security and national unity’, and ‘stability in border areas’ were major political issues for the government.

The notice pointed out that in any case of dereliction of duty, including the failure to “educate and guide families and those around them to not participate in the ‘Saka Dawa’ religious activities,” the “main leadership of the unit” will be held responsible and will be “severely punished.”

According to TCHRD, since the beginning of this year, 19 officials in Tibet, both of Tibetan and Chinese descent, have either been demoted or fired for failing to implement stability maintenance work.

The TAR Committee Discipline and Inspection Department also called for the strengthening of supervision and inspection work in regards to the implementation of an 18-point regulation introduced in February 2012. Citing the new rules, the circular directed the party members and cadres particularly the special cadres deployed in towns and villages as well as staff of the Monastery Management Committees to quickly respond and immediately tackle the problems.

TCHRD noted that the increased “emphasis on maintaining stability” translates into “widespread crackdown on the rights and interests of the Tibetan people not only in TAR but also in Tibetan areas of Kham and Amdo,” regions where most of self-immolations have taken place.

In December last, Zhu Weiqun, China’s point man for Tibet, in an article, revived the hard line rhetoric against religion by reaffirming that the party’s “principled stance regarding forbidding members from believing in religion has not changed one iota.”

The executive vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, who has had nine rounds of meetings with envoys of the Dalai Lama, stressed that party members in Xinjiang and Tibet should take a “clear-cut stand” on not believing in religion.

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