China: Tibetans are kept from taking part in Buddhist teachings of the Dalai Lama

Systematic violations of the Tibetan people’s religious freedom (Press Release)

China’s authorities are systematically keeping Tibetan people from taking part in Buddhist teachings of the Dalai Lama, Photo: UCI UC Irivine via Flickr

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has accused China’s authorities of systematically keeping Tibetan people from taking part in Buddhist teachings of the Dalai Lama. This is to be seen as a severe violation of their right to religious freedom as guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution. “Tibetan people are intimidated and threatened with punishment if they even consider traveling to Bodh Gaya in the Indian state of Bihar to take part in the 34th Kalachakra mediation teachings of their spiritual leader – and many passports have been confiscated already,” said Ulrich Delius, the STP’s Asia consultant, in Göttingen on Thursday.

Further, there are intimidations and threatened punishments for using the electronic media in Tibet to follow the public prayers and teachings. Anyone who dares to contravene might be facing up to five years imprisonment, since public prayers or meditations are regarded as a “threat to public order”, the authorities warned.

There are even attempts to censor social media platforms to keep the people from following the Kalachakra rites, which are highly important for the Tibetan Buddhists. Thus, “WeChat” – which is widespread in Tibet – is forced to block keywords and messages that have to do with the Kalachakra rites, and the recipients of the message are not even informed in case a message was not passed on to them.

More than 100,000 Buddhist believers from 85 countries have come to Bodh Gaya to participate in the 34th Kalachakra rites of the Dalai Lama between January 2 and 14. Kalachakra is a comprehensive meditation practice from Anuttara-yoga, the highest tantra class of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has held meditation rites like this 34 times since 1954, most recently in Ladakh in 2014.

China already started to confiscate passports of Tibetan people in November 2016, and has demanded Chinese citizens who are staying in India and Nepal to return to China. Ultimately, the authorities issued a ban on leaving the country to visit Nepal during the first two weeks of January. Tibetan pilgrims in Bodh Gaya reported that Chinese officials had systematically searched houses in Tibet, threatening to punish family members if the pilgrims weren’t to return immediately. Nearly 7,000 Tibetans then decided to return home.

Header Photo: UCI UC Irvine via Flickr