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U.S. State Department documents “severe” religious repression in Tibet; names China as ‘of Particular Concern’

September 23, 2011

U.S. State Department documents “severe” religious repression in Tibet; names China as ‘of Particular Concern’
The U.S. Department of State released its annual International Religious Freedom report yesterday, September 13, 2011, covering events from July through December 2010. The section on religious repression in Tibet concludes that the "government's level of respect for religious freedom remained poor in the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) and other Tibetan areas," and that "[r]epression was severe."

China was identified in the report as one of only eight "countries of particular concern," which signals the most egregious and systematic denials of religious freedom.  Official restrictions on Tibetan Buddhists were highlighted by Secretary of State Clinton in her public roll out of the report, and by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Posner who specified concerns about Tibetan communities and Kirti Monastery, "where 300 monks were taken from the monastery and detained." U.S. Government officials have repeatedly raised concerns with the Chinese government about the situation at Kirti Monastery since a Kirt monk named Phuntsog died as a consequence of self-immolation in March. (ICT report)

The report highlights regulations which stipulate that only the Chinese government is authorized to recognize a Tibetan lama as a reincarnate, with the State Council maintaining the right to deny the recognition of reincarnation to high lamas “of especially great influence."

Other findings in the report include the removal of children from schools attached to monasteries, security personnel restricting the number of times per week Tibetans may worship at Drepung monastery and other religious sites, and the continuing inadequacy of “the quality and availability of  high-level religious teachers" in Tibet.

The information on religious repression was gathered despite the denial of diplomatic access for the majority of requests by U.S. government personnel; visits to the Tibet Autonomous Region, when allowed, were closely monitored and controlled. The State Department report also notes that U.S. diplomats and other foreigners were often refused passage at police roadblocks due to unpublished travel restrictions for foreigners in place since the March 2008 Tibetan uprising, and transportation on public buses to Tibetan areas outside of the TAR was refused, despite those areas being officially open to foreigners.

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