Is religion still religion if it is under the Communist Party's total control?
Tibetan monks attend the Beating Ghost festival at the Yonghe Temple, also known as the Lama Temple, in Beijing on Feb. 25. In Tibet, there has been a trend to turn monasteries and Buddhist academies into "Party schools." (Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP)
November 10, 2017
In recent years, the Chinese communist government has not only been suppressing religions, but has also increasing manipulation of them to serve its political aim of "Unity of Religion and State."
Of course, its purpose is not to show how open its religious policy is, but to hijack religions to serve a political agenda of legitimatizing, embellishing and varnishing its regime. In other words, the Chinese government wants religions to become their accomplices.
In Tibet, there has been a trend to turn monasteries and Buddhist academies into "Party schools." Some researchers believe the situation will become more severe after last month's 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party of China.
After an enforced demolition and eviction, the Serthar Buddhist Institute was divided into Serthar Wuming Buddhist College and Larong Monastery. Students were evicted from the world's largest Tibetan Buddhist school. The committee organization department of Ganzi County also issued a public notice on Aug. 20 regarding the appointment of key officials. They were Serthar Wuming Buddhist College's party secretary, principal, deputy party secretary, deputy principal as well as Larong Monastery Managing Committee's party secretary, director and deputy director.
All are members of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese government is currently applying the same policy to the Asian Youth Buddhist Academy, located not far from Serthar Buddist Institute, by demolishing its premises and evicting its students.
Many Tibetans believe the Chinese government will use the Sethar Institute "model" on the Asian Youth Buddhist Academy as well. They also worry the policy will be implemented at all monasteries and Buddhist academies across Tibet.
In recent years, the Chinese government has been expanding its party organizations to control all fields, including Tibetan monasteries, Buddhist academies and even foreign companies in China.
The activities of the Communist Party as well as the daily life of monasteries and Buddhist academies are two entirely different things.
According to the Chinese government, the Party committee in an agency has the highest authority. Therefore, the Party committee established in a monastery or a Buddhist academy would mean it takes full control of the monastery.
Monks and students would not be allowed to share control, even if it relates to the education system and daily religious activities. This would have a serious impact on the learning, study and spiritual practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
No other religion would accept a communist organization being established in their convents, mosques or seminaries. It would be the greatest act of disrespect and tarnish their faith.
This is especially so, given that many religious leaders, clergy and followers from different faiths were murdered by the Chinese Communist Party in the past.
Such historical trauma has not been healed, and now the Chinese government is once again rubbing salt into the wounds of believers. It is a situation that is absolutely unacceptable to Tibetan Buddhists and all religious believers.
Now the Chinese government has announced the newly-amended "Regulations on Religious Affairs" which will be implemented on Feb. 1 next year. It marks the further hijacking of religions by the Chinese government after the Party's 19th Congress.
The clergy and religious academics have strongly voiced their criticism about the regulations, but the harsh religious policy has already been implemented in Tibet for a long time.
In addition to the "Regulations on the Administration of Sites for Religious Activities" released by the State Council on Jan. 31, 1994 and "Regulations on Religious Affairs" implemented on Mar. 1, 2005, the Chinese government also issued specific regulations for Tibetan Buddhism.
For example, so-called "Rules Governing the Reincarnation of Tibetan Living Buddhas" were implemented on Sept. 1, 2007 and "Measures for the Administration of Tibetan Buddhism Temples" were implemented on Nov. 1, 2010.
These regulations strictly control clerics and the temples of Tibetan Buddhists.
Simultaneously, the government set up public security stations and management committees for monasteries. Government officials are stationed at monasteries to restrict cleric's freedom of movement, preaching, practices and the study of Buddhism.
Therefore, implementation of the new regulations will worsen the situation for Tibetan Buddhists.
Tibetans believe, the integration of these so-called core values of socialism into religion reveals the Chinese Communist Party's attempts to legitimize its rule and control people and organizations at all levels of society.
But is religion still religion if it is under the Communist Party's total control?
"No matter what kind of religion you believe in, there is only one norm: they must obey the command of the Party and acknowledge the Communist Party's superior position over all churches," one Chinese blogger recently wrote.
"If you believe Christianity, the Communist Party is the God of your God; if you believe in Buddhism, the Communist Party is Buddha of your Buddha; for Muslims, the communist party is Allah of your Allah; for the living Buddha, only the Communist Party can approve who will be the living Buddha," the blogger continued.
"The Party wants you to say what she wants you to say; do what she wants you to do. Believers of different religions should uphold their faith to follow the Party's will. If you are not doing so, you will be suppressed by the dictatorship."
Song Jieja is a Tibetan writer, commentator and former Chinese spokesman of the exiled Tibetan government. He is currently studying in Spain.