China continues cultural genocide

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New Driru measures to ‘rectify’ religious practice lead to expulsion of nuns, threats to livelihood

Regulations

The new ‘rectification campaign’, dated September 12 (2014) has been imposed at a county level in Driru, Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, as part of a broader political campaign and paramilitary crackdown following Tibetan resistance against the authorities’ efforts to compel Tibetans to display the Chinese national flag from their homes. The campaign intensified in early October 2013 when villagers refused to fly the flags, with some throwing them instead into a river. Since September, 2013, dozens of Tibetans have been detained and the authorities have instituted more systematic oppression and deployment of troops in a bid to prevent political unrest spreading to other parts of Nagchu and the Tibet Autonomous Region.[1]

New measures detailing expulsions of monks and nuns from religious institutions appeared to have been enforced last week when 26 nuns characterized as ‘illegal’ by the authorities were expelled from the historic Jada Nunnery in Driru on November 15 (2014) after a police raid. Many of the nuns had refused to denounce the Dalai Lama during their visit, according to Tibetan sources, and this led a work team of officials to examine the registration records of the nunnery to check that its population was in line with the officially-imposed quota of 140 nuns.[2] It is not known whether more expulsions may follow from the 15th century nunnery, which offers Tibetan language and literature instruction in addition to religious education.[3]

The new Driru ‘rectification’ regulations – translated into English below from Tibetan – are imposed in the context of a legalistic approach that aims to strengthen Communist Party control over Tibetan Buddhist practice and weaken religious institutions still further, as well as escalating the crackdown in lay society.[4] Implementation of policy on religion has been particularly harsh in Tibet because of the close link between religion and Tibetan identity. Tibetan Buddhism continues to be an integral element of Tibetan identity and Tibetan nationalism, and is therefore perceived as a potential threat to the authority of the state and ‘unity’ of the PRC.

The language in the regulations on what constitutes an offence is deliberately opaque, meaning it can be subject to interpretation by local officials according to the political climate and drive to secure a conviction of a specific individual or set a particular example. For instance, the measures state that monks and nuns “who interfere in government affairs, administrative, legal or educational’ will not only be expelled from their monasteries but will also do “six months of education in law”,[5] and may also face criminal charges (Point 41). The exact nature of the ‘interference’ is not defined, leaving it open to interpretation by the local authorities meaning that monks could be penalized for engagement in such activities as community education.

The same penalties apply to monks and nuns who “interfere in the mediation of social disputes”, although this is a traditional monastic role that is of great benefit to the community, often helping to prevent violent conflict. In the case of disputes over land, for instance, as a result of Chinese government policies of settling nomads, confiscating their land, and fencing pastoral areas,[6] the important role played by religious figures in the community has been noted by foreign and Chinese specialists. After interviews with herders in the Tibetan area of Amdo, scholar Emily Yeh said that where disputes over pasture had been settled, religious leaders rather than secular officials had been involved.[7]

The Driru rulings are unambiguous in their assertion of punishment for display or ‘secretly keeping’ Dalai Lama images. They state: “Monks and nuns who hang pictures of the Dalai[8] or secretly keep them will be expelled from the monastery community, and forced to complete six months of education in the law” (Point 37).

Laypeople in Driru who are found with images of the Dalai Lama have the potentially very serious consequence of losing their livelihood: “Laypersons who hang pictures of the Dalai or secretly keep them will be forced to complete six months of education in the law, and deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu (caterpillar fungus) for two years”. After the loss of their land and livelihoods due to Chinese policies, and ill-prepared to compete with Chinese migrant workers for employment, more and more Tibetans depend on collecting the fungus called ‘yartsa gunbu’ (‘summer grass, winter worm’) to earn a living.[9] Officials in Tibet have made similar threats before at times of unrest, but it appears to be the first time that such threats have been codified in county-level regulations.[10] The new restrictions appear to reflect an official acknowledgement that ‘patriotic education’ alone is not effective in eradicating loyalty to the Dalai Lama and changing Tibetans’ thinking.

The 1994 Third Tibet Work Forum, a major policy meeting, led to prohibitions on the possession of Dalai Lama photographs and other religious symbols by Party members. Unlike in the Driru regulations, the extent of the ban and whom it should be applied to was ambiguous at that time; partially in order to increase its intimidating effect, and implementation was erratic. But in principle Dalai Lama pictures cannot be displayed in any government office or accommodation and today, virtually no images of the Dalai Lama appear to be on public display in the Tibet Autonomous Region, although they are still kept in private homes.[11]

In the Driru measures, not even officials are exempt from scrutiny in enforcing such prohibitions on Dalai Lama pictures; milder punishments of ‘official warnings’ and loss of status for monasteries are detailed for those who are in charge and either do not notice or do not report cases of display of Dalai Lama images.

One of the most serious measures is the instruction that “Religious facilities such as temples, hermitages and retreat cells that are illegally constructed since January 1, 2011 must all be closed down and, within a specific time period, demolished”. It is not known how many institutions or monastic retreats may fall under this category. This also applies to ‘mani walls’ – made of slabs of stone inscribed with prayers and sacred texts.

For Tibetans, this has disturbing resonances of the past, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, when thousands of monasteries, shrines and mani walls were destroyed in Tibet, to be painstakingly rebuilt in the years of relative liberalization in the early 1980s. The 15th century Jada nunnery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt in the mid-1980s, in the years of relative liberalization, by Tibetan nuns in Driru.

The Driru regulations issued in September also appear to include an admission that the Chinese authorities use the worship of a spirit known as Dolgyal Shugden to promote discord among Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has repudiated the worship of Shugden (also known as Dolgyal), while some of its followers have used the cult of worship to attack the Dalai Lama by attempting to damage his reputation, in parallel with the Chinese government’s worldwide attempts to do the same. Section 18 of the Driru regulations focuses on punishments for “those who stir conflicts among monastics and lay believers over belief in […] Shugden out of malevolence”. Inside the PRC, officials have used Shugden worship to create divisions between Tibetans, often encouraging Tibetans to worship Shugden and offering financial inducements to do so, as part of their objective of undermining the Dalai Lama. This ruling is likely to refer to be a warning to those who seek to discourage others from worshipping Shugden, indicating their loyalty to the Dalai Lama.[12]

Party authorities acknowledge failure in controlling Tibetan thinking, loyalty to the Dalai Lama

News of the Driru measures emerged in the context of a front page article in Tibet Daily earlier this month in which Tibet Autonomous Region Party chief Chen Quanguo was cited as saying that “Those who have fantasies about the 14th Dalai Clique,[13] those who follow the 14th Dalai Clique, and those Party cadres involved in supporting separatist infiltration and sabotage activities will be strictly disciplined and severely punished in accordance with the law.”[14]

Chen Quanguo’s statements followed feedback earlier this month from an official work team investigating corruption in the Tibet Autonomous Region.[15] His comments, published in the state media, connect the PRC-wide struggle against corruption emphasized by Party Secretary and President Xi Jinping with the “fight against separatism”, which in turn is allied with the political campaign to eliminate loyalty to the Dalai Lama.[16]

In effect, this is an admission of the failure of the Chinese Party-authorities to undermine the steadfast loyalty of Tibetans – including Party officials – to the Dalai Lama. Xiong Kunxin, a professor with the Minzu (Ethnic Minorities)[17] University, acknowledged this failure when he was cited by the state media as saying: “Some officials in Tibet still sympathize with the Dalai Lama. They continue to support the Dalai Lama out of their religious beliefs.” The professor added that those officials also support the Dalai Lama’s separatism activities. (Global Times, November 5, 2014).

The Beijing authorities take the enduring influence of the Dalai Lama among Tibetans seriously, and seek to take a position as the ‘arbiter’ of Tibetan Buddhist culture. The Chinese Communist Party, which promotes atheism, requires its citizens to ‘love the country’, in other words, to respect the authority of the Party-state, above all other loyalties. Chen Quanguo’s predecessor as Tibet Autonomous Region Party chief Zhang Qingli referred to a “life or death struggle” against the Dalai Lama.[18]

Precedents for Driru measures: punishments affecting livelihoods and the community

The September measures are the second set of county-level regulations in Driru (Chinese: Biru) detailing collective punishment of a monastic or lay community as a consequence of an individual’s alleged actions.

For instance, the regulations in September state that if new monks or nuns are accepted to religious institutions beyond the officially-set quota, then the entire monastic community will be affected, and “monastic members of the monastery management committees will have six months salary cut”.[19]

The earlier rulings in Driru were issued in June, a month before a major religious teaching by the Dalai Lama in Ladakh, India, and focused particularly on penalties for Tibetans who sought to attend these teachings.[20] A partial set of these measures were translated by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, which reported: “The original regulation includes four chapters and 26 articles mainly focusing on the cracking down on separatism, the ‘Dalai clique’, putting restrictions on participation in religious gathering such as the Kalachakra Empowerment given by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in July 2014 in Ladakh in northern India.”[21]

The new Driru regulations follow a set of provisions also issued at county-level in Dzoege, Ngaba (Chinese: Ruo’ergai, Aba), Sichuan Province, announcing new forms of punishment and persecution for Tibetan individuals and communities if a Tibetan self-immolator is a relative or from the local area.[22] The measures, which Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser termed as “absurd and terrifying’ represent a form of collective punishment that could have potentially devastating consequences on Tibetan communities.[23] Sanctions included the inability of individuals to hold government positions or receive official aid, deprivation of government assistance to villages where the self-immolation protests occur, and farmland or pasture registered in the name of the self-immolator will be taken by the authorities.

Over the past few years, the Party authorities have been implementing laws and regulations in order to “earnestly maintain the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism, and guide Tibetan Buddhism to keep in line with the ‘socialist society.’”[24] The Driru regulatory measures provide for increased state regulation of Tibetan Buddhism,[25] as well as an expansion of the aggressive political campaign to end the Dalai Lama’s influence among Tibetans.

The importance of eradicating religious belief among Communist Party members was also highlighted by corruption inspection teams sent elsewhere in the PRC. For instance, a team of officials sent by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s discipline watchdog, to eastern Zhejiang province, said it found “several party members who were religious believers”, according to the website of People’s Daily.[26]

The Driru measures: translation into English

The document translated from Tibetan to English below consists of 12 pages of a larger document (which may be around 30 pages) detailing punishments for various activities, imposed at a county level in Driru. Due to the harsh crackdown in the area and restrictions on information, only partial copies of the new measures, which were distributed door to door by government workers in monasteries and villages in Driru, have emerged.[27]

Driru County People’s Government
2014 issue no 166
September 12 2014

Announcement of provisional implementation of the county government decision on rectification of the religious sphere and allocation of responsibilities for subsequent maintenance of standards

Party and government offices at township level, county level, central government-regulated organs, monastery management committees and temple (hermitage) management sub-committees are required to thoroughly implement this decision.

Page 4 – ….until religious institutions can be screened for harbouring unauthorised members,[28]none may recruit new members. If they do, they will be dealt with as follows:

1. Monasteries (temples and hermitages) will be closed for re-organisation training

2. Monasteries (temples and hermitages) will be stripped of the right to compete for ‘progressive [institution]’ and be selected as an ‘excellent’ [institution], and will not enjoy any benefits of state policies for the welfare of monasteries for three years[29]

3. Monastic members of monastery management committees must give a written confession to the county Party committee and county Peoples’ government, which will be made public throughout the county

4. Tutors and other monks who perform [monastic] initiation ceremonies for illegally recruited monks [and nuns] will be expelled from the monastery community

5. Within a certain time period, the order will be given for a clean-up

6. If the clean-up cannot be completed within the time period, it will be dealt with as follows

1. [At] monasteries (temples and hermitages) harboring persons who have not qualified for religious ID certificates since three years and including them in the list of registered monks or nuns, their names will be struck off2. Monastic members of monastery management committees will have six months’ salary cut

3. Monks and nuns recruited illegally by force will be cleaned out, and given six months education in the law

MISSING PAGES

Point 37: In cases of hanging or secretly keeping pictures of the 14th Dalai and suchlike, those in charge and those with related responsibility will be punished as follows:

(One) When township Party Committees and governments fail to discover, arrest and deal with [such cases], according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”, the leader of the Party committee or government will be given an official warning

(Two) For monastery management committees (and appointed management personnel in temples and hermitages) who fail to discover, put a stop to and deal with [such cases], the leader of the committee (or appointed personnel) will be given an official warning according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”

(Three) When such incidents occur in monasteries (temples and hermitages), re-organisation training will be strictly conducted there, and they will be stripped of the right to compete for ‘progressive [institution]’ and be selected as an ‘excellent’ [institution], and of the right to enjoy any benefits of state policies for the welfare of monasteries for three years

(Four) Monks and nuns who hang pictures of the Dalai[30] or secretly keep them will be expelled from the monastery community, and forced to complete six months of education in the law

(Five) Laypersons who hang pictures of the Dalai or secretly keep them will be forced to complete six months of education in the law, and deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu (caterpillar fungus) for two years

Section 14: Concerning the allocation of responsibility for reporting the correction of irregularities in religious activities

Point 38: For villages (and neighborhoods) failing to handle the reporting of religious events to higher authorities according to the regulations, those with main responsibility and those with related responsibility will be dealt with as follows:

(One) When religious events are not reported promptly in advance to higher authorities according to regulation, the holding of those events is absolutely prohibited, and the main persons with responsibility in the “two committees” (Party and government) at village (and neighborhood) level will have their salaries suspended for three months

(Two) If religious events are held without following the internal procedure at village (and neighborhood) level, the main persons with responsibility in the “two committees” at village (and neighborhood) level will have their salaries suspended for six months, the organisers will be forced to complete six months of education in the law, and will be deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu or benefit from mass welfare policies for one year

(Three) For work teams stationed in villages that exercise insufficient oversight, do not find out about failures to report the holding of religious events from village (and neighborhood) level in a timely way, deal with them and put a stop to them, the team leader will be given an official warning according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”

Point 39: Monasteries (temples and hermitages) failing to report the holding of religious events according to regulations will be dealt with as follows:

(One) If religious events are not reported to higher authorities promptly in advance as per regulation, on the basis of the “TAR measures on granting clearance permission for the holding of major Tibetan Buddhist events”, the holding of those events is absolutely prohibited, monastic members of the monastery management committee must submit a written confession to the county Party committee and county Peoples government, and this will be publicised throughout the county

(Two) Religious events held without following procedures…

PAGE MISSING

Section 15: Concerning allocation of responsibility for correcting interference by monastics in the resolution of social disputes

Point 41: Monks and nuns who interfere in government affairs, administrative, legal or educational, or interfere in the mediation of social disputes, will be expelled from the monastery community, will do six months of education in law, and in cases of suspected criminal offences, they will all be handed over to be dealt with by the legal administration

Section 16: Concerning allocation of responsibility for correcting and rectifying unregistered temples and hermitages

Point 42: Religious facilities such as temples, hermitages, retreat cells etc illegally constructed since January 1, 2011 must all be closed down and, within a specific time period, demolished

Point 43: No temple or hermitage that has not been registered with the government may be restored, and in cases of religious facilities being restored or enlarged without following official procedure, those with main responsibility or related responsibility will be dealt with as follows:

(One) For township level Party and government offices that fail to discover put a stop to and deal with it in a timely way, the main persons with responsibility in those offices will be given an official warning according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”

(Two) Responsible officials of the “two committees” at village (and neighborhood) level who fail to discover put a stop to and deal with it in a timely way will have their salary suspended for three months

(Three) For village based work teams, the team leader will be given an official warning according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”

(Four) Those who organise the restoration or enlargement of religious facilities will be forced to complete six months of education in the law, and be deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu for two years

(Five) Some restorations and enlargements done according to law will be forced by the government to be demolished
[Note: not clear what this actually means]

Section 17: Concerning the allocation of responsibility for rectifying unauthorised carving of Mani [prayer] stones and piling up of Mani walls [traditional walls of mantras carved on stone]

Point 44: In the case of any incidents of unauthorised Mani stone carving and Mani cairn building, from the time these regulations come into effect, those with main responsibility and related responsibility will be dealt with as follows:

(One) For township level Party and government offices, the main persons with responsibility in those offices will be given an official warning according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”, and the order will be given for a clean-up within a certain time period. If the clean-up is not completed within that time, Party and government officials with main responsibility and those with related responsibility will have their rank withdrawn

(Two) At village (and neighborhood) level, Party and government officials with main responsibility will have their salaries suspended for three months, and will be ordered to do a clean-up within a certain time period. If the clean-up is not completed within that time, those officials will be deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu for one year

(Three) For village based work teams that fail to stop and deal with incidents of unauthorised Mani stone carving and Mani cairn building, the team leader will be given an official warning according to the “Regulations on punishment of administrative personnel”

(Four) Persons involved in unauthorised Mani carving and cairn building will be ordered to do a clean-up[31] within a certain period, and if it is not done, they will have six months of education in the law and be deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu for two years

(Five) In cases of unauthorised trade in Mani cairns, carving etc. the proceeds will be confiscated by the state, those involved will be forced to complete 6 months of education in the law, and if they are from outside [the county], they will sent back to their place of registered residence [Hukou][32]

(Six) Organisations and individuals alike must stop any transportation of Mani cairns outside the county. If any such cases are discovered, the state will confiscate all proceeds, and those responsible will be forced to do six months of education in law

Section 18: Concerning allocation of responsibility for regulating belief in ‘Gyalchen Shugden’[33]

Point 45: Those who stir conflicts among monastics and lay believers over belief in Gyalchen Shugden out of malevolence[34] will be punished as follows:

(One) Monastics who create conflict over belief will be expelled from the monastery community, will do six months of education in law, and if suspected of breaking the law, will be handed over to the legal administration for investigation

(Two) Lay believers who create conflict over belief will be forced to do six months of education in law, their households will be deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu or benefit from mass welfare policies for three years, and if suspected of breaking the law, will be handed over to the legal administration for investigation

Section 19: Concerning allocation of responsibility for rectification of monastics joining illegal organisations

Point 46: Monks and nuns who join illegal organisations will be expelled from the monastery community, will be forced to do six months of education in law, and if suspected of criminal activity, will be handed over to the legal administration

Section 20: Concerning allocation of responsibility for rectifying issues of collusion, disunity and disharmony by monastics

Point 47: Those who create contradictions will be expelled from the monastery community, will be forced to do six months of education in the law, and if suspected of criminal activity, will be handed over to the legal administration

Section 21: Concerning allocation of responsibility for encouraging Lamas, Tulkus [reincarnate lamas] and respected religious figures to use their influence

Point 48: For monastery management committees that fail to properly carry out means for engaging Lamas, Tulkus and respected religious figures, and fail to determine their motivation, the officials with main responsibility will be given an official warning

Point 49: Lamas, Tulkus and respected religious figures who fail to enthusiastically guide and train monks and nuns will be spoken to by the county Party committee. Lamas and Tulkus involved with splitting the country, disrupting social order etc. will be strictly punished in accord with relevant laws and regulations, and will be stripped of their titles, in accord with the law

Section 22: Concerning allocation of responsibility for rectifying and managing the selection of reincarnations[35]

Point 50: Monasteries that contravene religious rituals, historically ascertained rules and methods of lineage succession, that do not obtain clearance permission from relevant offices or follow procedure…

PAGE MISSING

Section 24: Concerning allocation of other responsibilities

Point 54: Monastics who obstruct the regular work routine or who forcibly obstruct the regular work of common believers will be punished as follows:

1. Firmly smashed according to law, and on the basis of the “two if they dos” (if they hold illegal gatherings they must be dispersed immediately, and if they commit illegal acts after being dispersed, they must be arrested immediately)

2. Monks and nuns will be expelled from the monastery community, and if suspected of criminal activity, will be handed over to the legal administration

3. For every offence committed, the number of permitted members of the monastery (temple or hermitage) will be reduced by one

4. The monastery (temple or hermitage) will be closed for rectification training

5. The monastery (temple or hermitage) will be stripped of the right to compete for ‘progressive [institution]’ and be selected as an ‘excellent’ [institution], and will not enjoy any benefits of state policies for the welfare of monasteries for three years

6. Persons residing in monasteries who have not qualified for religious personnel ID since thee years will be deprived of the right to join the monastic community

7. Monastic members of the monastery management committee must submit a written confession to the county Party committee and county Peoples government, which will be publicised throughout the county, and they will have their salaries suspended for six months

Point 55: Members of the ordinary masses who obstruct normal activity will be punished as follows:

1. Firmly smashed according to law, and on the basis of the “two if they dos” (if they hold illegal gatherings they must be dispersed immediately, and if they commit illegal acts after being dispersed, they must be arrested immediately)

2. Persons involved will be forced to do six months education in law, and deprived of the right to collect Yartsa Gunbu or benefit from mass welfare policies for three years

3. If suspected of criminal offences, they will be handed over to be dealt with by the legal administration

4. Their village will be deprived of the right to benefit from mass welfare projects and funds for mass welfare initiatives, and to qualify and be selected for “progressive household cluster” status for three years

5. The village (or neighborhood) Party secretary will be removed from office, and Party committee foreman will be removed from office, in accord with the “Law on neighborhood committee organisation”

Point 56: If travel checkpoints fail to properly prevent monastics without full qualifications from travelling, the leading checkpoint official and police officers on duty at the time will be given an official warning. If monastics without proper qualifications to travel illegally cross national borders, or go outside of their own accord for religious studies, or engage in splittist sabotage after reaching other localities, the leading checkpoint official and police officers on duty at the time will be given an official warning

Point 57: Following rectification, if individuals residing in monasteries without fully valid religious ID contravene these regulations, responsibility will be allocated on the basis of relevant measures

Chapter 3 – additional points

Point 58: These regulations come into force from the day of announcement

Point 59: These regulations should be summarised [only] with the approval of the county Peoples’ government

Driru County Peoples Government
September 12, 2014

(11 of a total 37 pages)


Footnotes
[1] The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, based in Washington, DC, documented 58 detentions related to the crackdown in Driru including 15 resulting in prison sentences of up to 18 years, according to the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database on September 1 2014. CECC Annual Report, 2014, http://www.savetibet.org/cecc-report-says-increase-in-harsh-security-and-punitive-measures-in-tibet/

[2] Since July, 2004, when the Standing Committee of the State Council passed the ‘Regulations on Religious Affairs’, monasteries and nunneries have been required to register with the government, and are subject to increasingly cumbersome regulation by the state, intensified by the new measures.

[3] The Tibetan service of Voice of America cited a Tibetan in exile saying: “Normally when the work team visits the nunnery, the nuns who do not have an official residential permit go into the mountains to hide.” But the same Tibetan,http://www.voanews.com/content/twenty-six-expelled-after-tibetan-nunnery-refuses-to-denounce-dalai-lama/2523557.html

[4] Due to the crackdown in the area and the dangers of sharing information, the regulations are not available in full. ICT has translated the 12 pages that have been made available, from a larger document (which may be around 30 pages).

[5] The political campaign of ‘patriotic education’, which involves the requirement to denounce the Dalai Lama, has more recently been termed ‘legal education’, and usually involves studying Chinese Communist Party laws and regulations.

[6] This is leading to increasing poverty, environmental degradation and social breakdown, as acknowledged by a UN Rapporteur after a visit to Tibet in 2010: ICT report, December 23, 2010 http://www.savetibet.org/un-special-rapporteur-warns-of-consequences-to-nomad-settlement/

[7] Tibetan Range Wars: Spatial Politics and Authority on the Grasslands of Amdo’ by Emily T. Yeh,http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/booksAndPapers/yeh.tibetan.range.wars.pdf

[8] A disrespectful term for the Dalai Lama.

[9] Yartsa gunba is bought by traders and sold to pharmaceutical companies and Chinese medicine clinics across China. It is prized for its medicinal properties. See pp 177-186 in ICT report, ‘Tracking the Steel Dragon: How China’s economic policies and the railway are transforming Tibet’, http://www.savetibet.org/tracking-the-steel-dragon/

[10] For instance in 2008 In Baiyu (Chinese: Payul) county in Kardze, Sichuan, local officials told people that if they did not sign their names on a petition condemning the Dalai Lama, they would not allow them to harvest yartsa gunba (caterpillar fungus), an essential source of income for many Tibetans. ICT report: http://www.savetibet.org/mass-detentions-of-monks-suicides-and-despair-as-enforced-condemnation-of-dalai-lama-provokes-dissent/

[11] ICT report, July 24, 2013, on discussions in Qinghai about displaying Dalai Lama pictures:http://www.savetibet.org/discussions-on-anti-dalai-lama-policy-shut-down-in-qinghai-kalachakra-in-tsolho-cancelled/

[12] See the new book, ‘Dolgyal Shugden: A History’ by the Dolgyal Shugden Research Society,http://www.amazon.com/Dolgyal-Shugden-The-Research-Society-ebook/dp/B00KSP5K20/ Also see ICT statement on Shugden demonstrators in the West: http://www.savetibet.org/the-international-campaign-for-tibets-statement-on-the-shugden-demonstrators

[13] A derogatory term used by Chinese officials for the Dalai Lama, his monastic office and followers

[14] The comments were published online in Chinese, in the state media, on November 5 (2014),
http://epaper.chinatibetnews.com/xzrb/html/2014-11/05/content_579554.htm Last year Chen Quanguo asserted the importance of loyalty to the Party state and ‘motherland’ through strengthening training in propaganda and ideology: “Construct and strengthen ‘Three Contingents’. We should establish a contingent of propaganda, ideology and culture, who are loyal to the Party, to the motherland and to the people. We should strengthen the training for cadres for propaganda, ideology and culture, appointing a full-time propaganda committee member for each town. We should put forth an effort to train a group of excellent propaganda cadres, who are politically reliable and who are in complete mastery of their professional work.” The article, translated by High Peaks Pure Earth and available at: http://highpeakspureearth.com/2013/tar-party-secretary-chen-quanguo-on-new-propaganda-and-control-of-social-media-strategy/, was published in the Party journal ‘Quishi’ on November 1, 2013.

[15] Xinhua reported on July 28, 2014, that: “A team of inspectors dispatched by the central discipline inspection agency have started work in Tibet, trying to expose corruption and close loopholes in Party management and government work.[…] Tibet, largely inhabited by ethnic Tibetans, is one of 10 provincial divisions to which inspection teams are scheduled to be dispatched in a period starting from mid-July.” The Xinhua report did acknowledge that the perspective of the work team was inevitably a political one, citing Ye Dongsong, head of the inspection team, as saying that “inspectors will find out whether local officials are working in a style that is harmful or leading inappropriate lifestyles. The inspection also targets officials who openly speak against the central leadership’s policies and major decisions as well as CPC principles and those who fail to effectively implement them, according to Ye.”

[16] The full quote, translated from the Chinese by ICT, is as follows: “We must adhere to the struggle against corruption with one hand and the fight against separatism with the other, strengthening the construction of a clean and honest Party and government, and using the anti-corruption struggle as an important safeguard in the struggle against separatism. The performance of Party cadres in struggling against separatism will be regarded as an important agenda item for clean government and the struggle against corruption. In a serious and disciplined struggle against separatism, those who are unclear about the outcome of the anti-separatist struggle, those who have fantasies about the 14th Dalai Clique, those who follow the 14th Dalai Clique, and those Party cadres involved in supporting separatist infiltration and sabotage activities will be strictly disciplined and severely punished in accordance with the law. Party cadres, especially the leading cadres at each level, must safeguard the unity of the motherland, should launch a struggle against separatism as a major matter of principle, always take a clear stand, stand firm with one vision, a resolute attitude and unity, and never be a ‘two-headed person.’”

[17] Previously known as the Central University for Nationalities

[18] Meeting of Party officials on May 16, reported by Xinhua in Chinese on June 21, 2006. See ICT report for context, ‘The Communist Party as Living Buddha: The Crisis facing Tibetan religion under Chinese control’.

[19] In 2012, the Chinese Communist Party authorities established Monastery Management Committees headed by Party cadres and government officials in all Tibet Autonomous Region monasteries, an unprecedented measure that strengthened control over Tibetan Buddhist religion and religious institutions.

[20] In June (2014), ICT documented how the Chinese authorities tightened controls and restricted travel in border areas. The moves were linked to the authorities’ objectives in preventing Tibetans from attending a major religious teaching, the Kalachakra, by the Dalai Lama across the border in Ladakh from July 3. ICT report: http://www.savetibet.org/china-tightens-control-prevents-pilgrimage-before-major-dalai-lama-teaching-in-exile/ Also see ICT’s report on the Kalachakra being described as an “incitement” to terrorism: http://www.savetibet.org/new-aggressive-counter-terrorism-campaign-expands-from-xinjiang-to-tibet-with-increased-militarization-of-the-plateau/ and deployed paramilitary troops to block Tibetans from making a pilgrimage to the sacred Mount Kailash in western Tibet

[21] TCHRD report, July 30, 2014, http://www.tchrd.org/2014/07/china-holds-tibetan-livelihood-to-ransom-to-secure-political-stability-2/

[22] For analysis on the Dzoege and June Driru measures, and collective punishment within Chinese law, see the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report 2014, Tibet section, at:http://www.cecc.gov/sites/chinacommission.house.gov/files/2014%20annual%20report_0.PDF The CECC concludes that the PRC Constitution and Criminal Procedure Law do not contain language explicitly addressing collective punishment of households, communities, villages or institutions, based solely on proximity to an action the government treats as illegal, or based solely on a family relationship with a person who committed such an act. Both the Driru and the Dzoege measures contain no reference to any means by which a punished entity could appeal against a punishment.

[23] ICT report, ‘Acts of Significant Evil: http://www.savetibet.org/acts-of-significant-evil/

[24] Hu Jintao, emphasizing the Party’s role in controlling Tibetan Buddhism at the Fifth Work Forum on Tibet in January, 2010, Xinhua, January 22, 2010: “China to achieve leapfrog development, lasting stability in Tibet”; – See more at:http://www.savetibet.org/acts-of-significant-evil/

[25] Regulatory measures on “Tibetan Buddhist Affairs” at monasteries and nunneries in nine of the 10 prefectural-level regulations impose a complicated approval process that monks, nuns, and Tibetan Buddhist teachers must complete before they receive permission to travel to another Tibetan Buddhist institution to study or teach. Approval of the new regulatory measures is concurrent with increased government repression of Tibetan Buddhists’ religious freedom following the wave of protests (and some rioting) that began in Lhasa on March 10, 2008, and spread to locations across the Tibetan plateau.

[26] Cited by Reuters, November 5 (2014), http://in.reuters.com/article/2014/11/05/china-tibet-idINKBN0IP0CI20141105

[27] The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy translated the earlier set of regulations that emerged from Tibetan:http://www.tchrd.org/2014/07/china-holds-tibetan-livelihood-to-ransom-to-secure-political-stability-2/

[28] This refers to official quotas imposed in monasteries and nunneries by the authorities, which generally exclude monks or nuns who are under 18, or others deemed to exceed the quota.

[29] This refers to a system of reward and punishment by the authorities in which ‘patriotic’ institutions receive greater benefits and funding, while those in which monks have failed to denounce the Dalai Lama, or participated in protests, for instance, have been penalized.

[30] ‘Dalai’ is used by the Chinese officials as a disrespectful term for the Dalai Lama

[31] ‘Clean-up’ is a literal translation; it is not clear exactly what it means in an individual context, although it probably refers to an exercise of self-criticism.

[32] A hukou is a record in the system of household registration required by law in the People’s Republic of China (mainland China).

[33] The Dalai Lama has repudiated the worship of the Dolgyal Shugden, considered by most Tibetans to be a mundane, somewhat demonic spirit. Demonstrators in the West have used the cult of worship to attack the Dalai Lama by damaging his reputation, in parallel with the present Chinese government’s worldwide attempts to do the same. Inside the PRC, officials have used Shugden worship to create divisions between Tibetans, often encouraging Tibetans to worship Shugden and offering financial inducements to do so, as part of their objective of undermining the Dalai Lama. See the new book, ‘Dolgyal Shugden: A History’ by the Dolgyal Shugden Research Society, http://www.amazon.com/Dolgyal-Shugden-The-Research-Society-ebook/dp/B00KSP5K20/ Also see ICT statement on Shugden demonstrators in the West: http://www.savetibet.org/the-international-campaign-for-tibets-statement-on-the-shugden-demonstrators/

[34] Again, this refers to the Chinese authorities’ attempts to undermine the Dalai Lama, who has called on Tibetans who worship Dolgyal Shugden not to attend his teachings

[35] New measures introduced in 2007 stated that all reincarnated lamas (tulkus) must have government approval. The measures, which were deliberately targeted at one of the core belief systems of Tibetan Buddhism, revealed the Party’s agenda to undermine and supplant the Tibetan religious hierarchy and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders including the Dalai Lama. The new “management measures for the reincarnation of living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism”, which are described by the official press as “an important move to institutionalize the management of reincarnation” were passed by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) for implementation from September 1, 2007. The Chinese authorities use the term ‘Living Buddhas’ to describe reincarnate lamas or tulkus (Tibetan: sprul sku), individuals who have consciously decided to be reborn, often many times, for the benefit of all others. ICT report, August 15, 2007, http://www.savetibet.org/new-measures-on-reincarnation-reveal-partys-objectives-of-political-control/

http://www.savetibet.org/harsh-new-rectification-drive-in-driru-nuns-expelled-and-warning-of-destruction-of-monasteries-and-mani-walls/

China interferes with Tibetan Buddhist cremation?

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Tibetan monk cremated in Nepal despite China controversy

Nepal accused of bowing to Chinese pressure in refusal to allow passage of deceased monk’s body

Senior Tibetan Buddhist guru Gyalwang Karmapa (R) consoles a monk during the cremation ceremony of senior Tibetan Buddhist monk Shamar Rinpoche at Shar Minub monastery in Kathmandu on July 31, 2014 ( Prakash Mathema (AFP) )

Thousands of mourners, many in tears, gathered in Kathmandu to pay tribute to a senior Tibetan Buddhist monk whose cremation was initially blocked by Nepal, sparking claims it had caved to pressure from China.

Monks chanted prayers and played traditional music as they lit the funeral pyre under the shade of a multicoloured canopy surrounded by Buddhist flags.

Nepal, which had initially granted approval for Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche’s body to be transported to Kathmandu from neighbouring India for cremation, retracted permission two weeks later, fuelling accusations that it was bowing to pressure from Beijing.

Buddhist monks attend the funeral of senior Tibetan Buddhist monk Shamar Rinpoche at Shar Minub monastery in Kathmandu on July 31, 2014 ( Prakash Mathema (AFP) )

Kathmandu denied the claims and said it did not know that Rinpoche, who died of a heart attack in Germany last month, held a Bhutanese passport when the original permit was issued.

The Himalayan nation, home to around 20,000 Tibetans, is under intense pressure from China to contain the activities of exiles who have fled their homeland.

After intense lobbying from Tibetan Buddhist scholars and followers, Nepal overturned its earlier ban but warned against hosting “any other function other than last rites” at the funeral site.

Organisers said an estimated 20,000 people attended the ceremony, including thousands who had flown in from overseas.

Buddhist monks and followers attend the funeral of senior Tibetan Buddhist monk Shamar Rinpoche at Shar Minub monastery in Kathmandu on July 31, 2014 ( Prakash Mathema (AFP) )

“He is not just a spiritual leader, but like a father to us. I had to be here,” said Joseph Chan, a 38-year-old American.

Rinpoche, 62, was the 14th Shamarpa of the Karma Kagyupa lineage, also known as the Red Hat Lama of Tibet, and one of the most senior figures in Tibetan Buddhism with followers in Asia and Europe.

“I have known him for 25 years. He has guided my studies and my life,” Jan Lazicki, a 57-year-old printing engineer from Poland, told AFP.

Rinpoche’s body was cremated in a special ceremony at the Shar Minub Institute in Kathmandu, a monastery built by him.

Buddhist monks weep during the cremation of senior Tibetan Buddhist monk Shamar Rinpoche at Shar Minub monastery in Kathmandu on July 31, 2014 ( Prakash Mathema (AFP) )

Organisers had put up screens live-streaming the ceremony for Rinpoche’s followers. As smoke rose above the monastery, many burst into tears while others chanted, holding prayer beads in their hands.

“He had chosen Nepal for his cremation and we are happy that the government understood and allowed this ceremony,” said Tsering Dhundup from the Shamarpa Foundation, which had organised the proceedings.

Special report on China’s move to punish Tibetans

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prisoner-report-banner3

Today the International Campaign for Tibet is releasing a Special Report on China’s move to punish Tibetans allegedly “associated” with self-immolators, including friends, families and even entire communities. The report documents the impact of measures announced in response to self-immolations across Tibet (now totalling 131), which have resulted in a spike in political imprisonments, including one instance of the death penalty, and numerous cases of Tibetans being ‘disappeared’, with family and friends unaware of whether or not they are still alive, often for weeks or months. To see the full report: http://www.savetibet.org/acts-of-significant-evil/

 

ICT Statement UN CESCR Review of China – 5 May 2014

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Mr. Chairman,

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) is deeply concerned about the deterioration of economic, social and cultural rights in Tibet since China’s last review under the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 2005. Conditions for the Tibetan people have worsened in all spheres of life due to the intensification of repressive policies and laws implemented by the Chinese government, de facto curtailing their right to self-determination, as outlined in Article 1 of the ICESCR, and violating many others.

Let me go through some of the main ones.

Article 11 – The right to an adequate standard of living, as defined in the ICESCR, includes adequate food, clothing and housing. Forced evictions, defined as permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals from the homes and land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection, are a violation of the right to housing.[1]

In Tibet, the implementation of Chinese policies to relocate Tibetan nomads in remote settlements and urban areas is a threat to the survival of an ancient way of life that is integral to Tibetan identity as well as the livelihoods of Tibetan nomads, resulting into the violation of further rights, such as the right to work. Resettlement policies in Tibet are usually carried out without consultation or consent, and local people have no right to challenge them or refuse to participate.

Article 13 – The right to education

The Chinese government claims that it promotes education in ethnic minority regions and that 94.7% of all ethnic counties achieved nine-year compulsory education.[2]

On paper, the number of educational institutions in Tibet has increased. However, the quality of education appears to offer little benefit to Tibetan children. Most schools in Tibet are Chinese-centric environments. The official language in most classrooms is Mandarin, which is not only difficult for Tibetan children to understand, as about 80% of Tibetans[3] do not speak Mandarin, but also leads to the assimilation of Tibetans in to Chinese culture, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

In November 2012 thousands of Tibetan tertiary students protested against issues including the government language policy. In April 2013, eight of these students were sentenced to up to four years in prison.[4]

Article 15 – The right to cultural life requires non-interference with the exercise of cultural practices as well as positive action from the State party.[5]

Tibetan culture is closely linked to Tibetan Buddhism.

China stated that it pursues a policy of freedom of religious belief and that its laws provide legal safeguards in this regard, giving equal treatment to every religion and denomination.[6]

However, over the past years in addition to the worsening of repression of religious freedom in Tibet, the Communist Chinese Government has also been controlling the deeply spiritual Tibetan religious practices. Chinese authorities have strengthened monastic management teams in Tibetan monasteries and tightened surveillance mechanisms. Monks and nuns are regularly subjected to patriotic education programs where they are forced to read propaganda literature denouncing the Dalai Lama.

In addition, since the protests of Spring 2008 across the Tibetan plateau, Tibetan writers, singers and artists have been the target of a drive against Tibetan culture in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity not validated by the state can be branded as ‘splittist’. Many of them have been imprisoned for engaging in ‘separatist activities’.[7]

We would like to reiterate the importance of the indivisibility of all human rights and call upon the Committee on ESCR to urge the People’s Republic of China to swiftly take all appropriate steps to ensure all economic, social and cultural rights of the Tibetan people.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

- See more at: http://www.savetibet.org/ict-urges-un-committee-to-focus-on-tibetans-deteriorating-economic-social-and-cultural-rights/#sthash.0TrXnstU.dpuf

China’s policies documents intentional discrimination against Tibetans

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Leaked Police Guideline Reveals Racial Discrimination Against Tibetans in Tibet

Voice of American/Tibetan

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Discrimination against Tibetans in China’s policies has long been reported. Today there are signs of starker segregating policy implemented against Tibetans in certain social contexts.

An undated “leaked police” guideline distributed to the hotels in Lhasa shows the Tibetans from Chamdo Prefecture, Sog, Driru and Dragchen counties of Nagchu Prefecture, Qinghai, Gansu, Yunan and Sichuan provinces require police approval to stay in the hotels.The guideline specifically exempts Chinese (Han in Chinese).

Free Tibet said the source of the one-paged-document in Chinese that reveals the situation is from a “highly reliable” person in Tibet. The same document was twitted by Beijing based Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser in December 2013. In October a similar announcement, reportedly to be from Lhasa Old Town Commend Center, shows police stations in Lhasa that were instructed to target Tibetans from “Three Eastern Counties” of Nagchu Prefecture, namely; Sog, Driru, and Drachen, and monitor them by using special secret codes.

London based rights group, Free Tibet, said that this is an “explicitly racist” policy. “The fact is that this is racial profiling if it specifically excludes Chinese and target only Tibetan,” Alistair Currie of Free Tibet told VOA Tibetan Service.

Many of the places mentioned in the letter are areas where there have been more protests in recent years. But Bapa Kalsang Gyaltsen, a former staff member of United Work Front in Ganze Prefecture and a current member of the Tibetan parliament in exile in India, argues that the restriction against the Tibetans is not related to the unrests in those areas. “There are many protests take place in China… there have been instances of policy stations being destroyed in China–each year around three hundred thousand protests take place in China,” Gyaltsen says. “But no restriction applies to the Chinese [from those areas]. They are allowed to go anywhere they want to.”

St. Regis hotel in Lhasa confirmed to VOA Tibetan Service that hotels in the Tibetan capital are required to deliver all information of the Tibetans from these areas to police station.

China says Tibetans are enjoying freedom of religion and movement and accuses the Tibetans in exile for trying to “spilit” Tibet from China, but the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile has consistently said they are only seeking for a “genuine” autonomy for Tibet.

Oslo Snubs the Dalai Lama

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Under pressure from China, Norway’s prime minister does not plan to meet the Tibetan religious leader this week.

  • May 6, 2014 3:13 p.m. ET
    Under pressure from China, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and other key officials have declined to meet the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan spiritual leader visits Norway this week.

    Oslo’s decision signals the success of Beijing’s escalating campaign to deny the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s democratic government-in-exile the standing they need to find a just solution to the Tibetan issue. The setback in Norway marks a worrying trend that should spur consultations among European countries and the United States on steps to resist Beijing’s pressure.

    “We haven’t been able to work with China on international issues for four years,” Ms. Solberg told a press conference Monday, referring to the “difficult situation” that Norway has faced since 2010, when Beijing broke off high-level ties with Oslo after the Norwegian-based Nobel Committee awarded its Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissidentLiu Xiaobo.

    Norway has heretofore been a staunch supporter of Tibet and has constantly promoted efforts to bring about a negotiated solution. But when the Nobel Committee awarded Mr. Liu the prize in 2010—for his prominent work on Charter 08, a manifesto for democracy, constitutionalism and human-rights reforms in communist China—Beijing reacted ferociously. The Chinese government called on foreign countries to boycott the award ceremony, where Mr. Liu’s own absence (due to his imprisonment on “subversion” charges) was poignantly represented by an empty chair. Although the Nobel Committee acts independently of the Norwegian government, Norway was immediately made the target of diplomatic and commercial retaliation.

    Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. European Pressphoto Agency

    Norway’s experience is not unique. Lithuania and Estonia, whose leaders have defied Beijing by receiving the Dalai Lama, have also experienced political retaliation. Britain appears to have come under marked pressure as well; citing unnamed sources, the British press reported that Prime Minister David Cameron‘s trip to China late last year had been preceded by a commitment that he would not raise the issue of Tibet.

    To reverse this decline in international support for Tibet, Europe, the U.S., India, Japan and other democracies would have to develop a united stand that protects against China’s divide-and-conquer strategy, and band together to show respect for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile government. But why should they? After all, one might argue, Tibet’s fate is sealed and 60 years of occupation will not be undone by giving a respectful welcome to the Tibetan religious leader.

    Beijing’s policies in Tibet are closely linked to its behavior in the rest of the region and the world. Beijing takes an expansive view of the “core interests” it claims in Tibet, for example by meddling in Nepal to thwart Tibetan refugees’ escape to safety. Further afield, Beijing sees its position in Tibet—which China invaded in the 1950s—as a reason to obstruct international action on other matters, lest intervention elsewhere create a precedent to intervene to stop China’s repression inside Tibet.

    Coordination among the world’s democracies is also vitally important in light of Beijing’s plans to exert control over the selection of the next Dalai Lama. It is equally and similarly crucial with regard to the current Dalai Lama’s own plans for the future of his spiritual office, and to the work of the Tibetan government-in-exile based in northern India. Without a unified position on these matters, the void left behind by the Dalai Lama will be swiftly exploited by Beijing.

    Aside from acting to stop Beijing’s repression in Tibet, the survival of Tibetan Buddhism and democracy-in-exile has profound implications for the future political development of China. Prominent Chinese dissidents, such as human-rights lawyer Teng Biao, argue that high-level meetings between world leaders and the Dalai Lama have a direct effect on China’s human-rights performance. Declining to meet with the Dalai Lama and failing to pursue Tibetan human rights thus undermines these dissidents, who speak out at great personal risk.

    While defying Beijing is not easy, world leaders would likely find their citizens in strong support of a new, principled position that recognizes the moral and strategic importance of Tibet. Despite China’s sustained pressure on governments, support for Tibet remains surprisingly strong among European publics. In a recent Ifop poll conducted in France and Germany, more than 80% of respondents said they want their leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama, and equal or higher numbers said they want their leaders to raise the issue of Tibet when they meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, a whopping 90% of French respondents and 92% of German respondents said they favor a meeting between Mr. Xi and the Dalai Lama to pursue a negotiated solution.

    Prime Minister Solberg’s decision has drawn protest within Norway. But she still has time to find a way to welcome the Dalai Lama. Better still, she could take steps to pave the way out of the predicament that so many democracies find themselves in, by entering into consultations with European countries and the United States over new, coordinated policies on Tibet. Only that will arrest the current dynamic of constant concessions, which not only mean terrible consequences for Tibetans, but also lost honor and legitimacy for our democracies.

    Mr. Mecacci is president of the International Campaign for Tibet and a former member of the Italian parliament. Ms. Bork is director of democracy and human rights at the Foreign Policy Initiative and board member of the International Campaign for Tibet.

    Persecution of Christians by the Chinese Government

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    Tibet isn’t the only “religious” community that is being persecuted by the Chinese government

    STORY HIGHLIGHTS
    • $4.7 million landmark church has been demolished in China
    • Officials responsible for demolition say church was an illegal structure
    • Christian rights group says demolition signals an official anti-religious campaign

    (Zoe Li – CNN) – A massive church was razed to the ground this week in Wenzhou, a coastal Chinese city nicknamed the “Jerusalem of the East” for its large Christian population.

    Local officials responsible for the demolition say the church was an illegal structure that was four times the permitted structure size. But Christian groups are concerned that the demolition signals an official campaign against religious organizations.

    The Sanjiang Church took 12 years and 30 million yuan ($4.7 million) to build, reports Chinese media. Its soaring spires were a symbol of worship in a city that is fifteen percent Christian.

    The church’s demolition on Monday was preceded by a month-long standoff between supporters of the church and local authorities, with supporters occupying the church to protest its destruction.

    The church was originally a government-approved project under the official “Three-Self Patriotic Movement,” a state-sanctioned Protestant church. Last September it was lauded by the local government as a model engineering project.

    But the official rhetoric has since changed entirely.

    Jin Leibo, a spokesperson from the propaganda department of Yongjia County, where Sanjiang Church was located, told CNN that the church was destroyed as it was “illegal.”

    “The building area should be within 1,881 square meters, but they built 7,928 square meters illegally,” Jin said. The church was asked to “self-rectify” by April 22, but workers only managed to tear down 500 square meters by deadline, according to officials.

    By Monday evening the church had been flattened by bulldozers.

    Five local government officials are currently under investigation in relation to the illegal construction of the church, according to Jin. One official was arrested, and another is in custody.

    Representatives of the church could not be reached for comment by CNN.

    U.S.-based Christian rights group China Aid says the faithful are worried that the church demolition could be a sign that the government is tightening its grip over the spread of Christianity in China.

    The organization claims that churches in different parts of Wenzhou and Hangzhou are currently “facing persecution” as a result of a provincial campaign against religious structures that was set into motion after Zhejiang Party Secretary Xia Baolong visited churches across the province and deemed them “too conspicuous.”

    Under Communist Party rule since 1949, China is officially an atheist country, but Christianity is growing. According to the Pew Research Center, China’s Christian population had reached 67 million by 2010, the second largest in Asia.

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