top of page

Why China Targets Tibetan Buddhism

The CCP is aware that their variety of Buddhism is the strength of the Tibetan people, and inspires even non-Tibetans.

By Choden Dolma

August 20, 2022

Monks at Domthok Monastery, now part of the Chinese province of Qinghai. Credits.

The illegal occupation of Tibet took place in the 1950s. The brutality and wrath of the Chinese Communist government on the people of Tibet started right afterwards, and turned the lives of the Tibetan people into a living hell. It has become an apparent fact to the world now that the people in Tibet live and survive under the oppressive, authoritarian rule of the CCP. The lack of basic human rights is also an issue that has been raised on every occasion to gain the attention that it deserves on the international platforms. Sadly, it has never been considered as a case worthy of being seriously taken up by organizations such as the United Nations.

The surveillance over Tibetans in Tibet is strengthened whenever the government wishes to, and every move, be it online or in real life, is monitored. Tibetans are barred from using their own language, and the schools that once used Tibetan language as a medium of study have almost become extinct. The schools are either forced to follow the Chinese school system or are made to register under the authorities, turning them into Chinese government schools once and for all.

Tibetans lack the right to study or freely practice their own religion, Buddhism. Religion is one of the main targets of the Chinese government, which promotes a complete Sinicization of Tibet. Monastic institutions, monasteries, and nunneries are kept under the strict control of the authorities. Innumerable monks and nuns have been forced to disrobe and to live their lives as commoners, surrendering their rights to further practice Buddhism or to promote it.

Buddhist institutions are targeted whenever Chinese policies or propaganda are introduced. China has been hell-bent upon destroying Buddhist statues and relics with the aim of eradicating the Tibetan faith and also robbing people off the right to preserve their traditions. Since December 2021, the Chinese government has destroyed three Buddhist statues in Tibet. Tibetans are afraid that more destructions will follow, within the framework of the Sinicization program.

The CCP also stooped to a new low when they claimed that it has the full right to appoint the next reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama, and that any other successor recognized without its consent will not be approved. Through these various acts, they undoubtedly signal a global crackdown. It is a straight case of cultural genocide.

One of the most recent incidents revealed by Bitter Winter in July could also be termed as a crackdown on Tibetan Buddhism by the Chinese Communist government. In July 2022, the China Buddhist Association, established in the year 1953 and including government-approved Buddhist temples and associations whose leaders are appointed by the CCP, issued a “Notice on the Boycott of Illegal Missionary Activities of Tibetan Buddhist Monks” in the Guangdong province.

The root of the incident however lied in the fact that the Buddhist believers in Guangdong were increasingly dissatisfied with the China Buddhist Association. Thus, they invited independent Buddhist teachers, Tibetans monks from both historical Tibet and from overseas. This did not sit right with the Communist Party since it gave out hints of the formation of an independent Buddhist circle outside their grasp and power. The notice claimed that, “In recent years, the illegal mission of Tibetan Buddhist monks to the mainland has become more and more serious, which has seriously impacted the spread of Mahayana Buddhism, the righteousness of Buddhism and Chan Buddhism, and seriously affected the interests of believers, property safety, family safety and social harmony.”

The notice also issued claims regarding how some people tried to “pose as living Buddha to lure people for money and sex” by giving out false initiations to impart the Dharma and release believers. Since this official document was issued by the Chinese authorities, various claims were made regarding the Tibetan Buddhist monks demeaning them in every way possible. They were accused of “engaging in various behaviors that violate national laws and regulations, and even supporting separatist activities, which have become a major hidden danger to social stability and harmony.” The China Buddhist Association, when it comes to making such claims regarding the monks promoting “separatist activities,” means the support extended towards His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

The notice also stated that it is illegal for Tibetan Buddhist monks to go out to teach Buddhism and to even have followers without approval from the state. It included threats about how anyone who violates the precepts of the China Buddhist Association by studying or participating in Tibetan Buddhist activities will be dealt in accordance to the national religious policy.

Such restrictions on Tibetan monks who merely travel to parts of the country to teach Buddhism show the seriousness of the attack imposed upon Tibetan Buddhism in general. The Communist Party through organizations it strictly controls such as the China Buddhist Association wishes to impose stricter measures on the usage and spread of Tibetan Buddhism, and to furthermore wipe away traces of it.

The local authorities are expected to report any suspicious activity or movement in the area. Any movement in Guangdong has been asked to be kept a strict watch on, meaning the arrival of any Tibetan Buddhist monks.

The lack of religious rights and the crackdown on religion justified by baseless accusations have become a common phenomenon in Tibet. Tibetans have protested endlessly for the revival of their rights and the end of the slander campaign against the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government, being aware of the power that religion holds over the people of Tibet, has used it thoroughly against them, and continues to do so. Religion is and will continue to be the most targeted and threatened aspect of Tibetan culture in the process of the complete Sinicization of Tibet by China.

bottom of page