[IR2008 Logo]
[Chinese version] [Home] [About the campaign] [Get the calendar!] [Previous version of IR2008]
[Incorporating Responsibility 2008]
Recent Update: 2011/07/11: Hada update; 2011/10/31: Chen Guangcheng update
[Human Rights and the Olympics: What you can do!]
[Take Action in July]
[Image: Tenzin Delek Rinpoche]
[HRIC Press Advisory: Support Religious Freedom and Cultural Rights for Ethnic Minorities]
[About the Individual: Tenzin Delek Rinpoche]
[Take Action for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche]
[About the Issue: Religious Education for Ethnic Minorities]
[Take Action to Support Religious Education for China's Ethnic Minorities]
[HRIC 2008 Calendar]

[A Reference to HRIC Olympic Resources]
[The Issues]
[The Individuals]
[Shi Tao] [Chen Guangcheng]
[Mao Hengfeng] [Hada]
[Yao Fuxin] [Hu Shigen]
[Tenzin Delek Rinpoche] [Shuang Shuying]
[Yang Maodong] [Huang Jinqiu]
[Li Chang] [Nurmemet Yasin]
Ethnic minorities in China continue to face numerous barriers to their access to religious education.

On this page:
Overview

Ethnic minorities in China continue to face numerous barriers to their access to religious education, despite the formal protections set forth in many domestic laws, regulations, and policies.

The authorities have established both legal and practical obstacles to accessing religious education. Religious practitioners face official interference in religious training, restrictions on entry into religious buildings, and limitations on the observance of religious customs in public places. At the same time, authorities have implemented an aggressive campaign of Chinese nationalist-themed patriotic education programs, which are instituted in primary and secondary schools, as well as in centers of religious learning such as monasteries and mosques.
^ Top



Legal Framework on Religious Education for
Ethnic Minorities

In this section:

Both international law and domestic legislation recognize and protect freedom of religion, which includes the right of access to religious education and training.

International law

Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental principles of international human rights law. These principles are reflected in numerous international human rights instruments and are a core part of the protection of both ethnic minority rights and the right to freedom of religion. Freedom of religious belief and practice and the right to religious education are also protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The PRC is a party to the ICESCR and the CRC. The PRC signed the ICCPR in 1998 but has not yet ratified it.

National laws

The domestic legal framework on religious education for ethnic minorities is grounded in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国宪法) and the 2005 Regulations of Religious Affairs (宗教事务条例) ("Religious Regulations").

Article 36 of the PRC Constitution states that Chinese citizens shall enjoy the freedom of religious belief. It protects "normal religious activities" and prohibits "activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens, or interfere with the educational system of the state." These terms, however, are not further elaborated upon and can be arbitrarily applied. Moreover, other national laws and regulations, such as the expansive State Secrets Law, bolster the use of the broad brush of "national security" and "public order" to justify restrictions on the rights of citizens, including the right to religious education.
Non-discrimination and equality are fundamental principles of international human rights law.

The 2005 Religious Regulations are the most comprehensive Chinese law governing aspects of religious activity in China, and were hailed by Chinese officials as a fundamental shift in the treatment of religious affairs, implementing the right to freedom of religious belief and practice (Ch. 1, Article 2). Although the Religious Regulations were created to protect Chinese citizens' religious rights, they raise three main concerns: the problem of vague terminology and lack of definitions; their use as an instrument of control rather than protection; and their restriction of freedom of association in the name of national security and public order.

The lack of specificity in the Religious Regulations regarding the determination and administration of punishments for contravening provisions therein is further cause for concern and can result in arbitrary application and harsh and excessive punishment. Moreover, their vague terminology, registration requirements, and national security provisions enable their use as a means of maintaining a tight grip on the people. Officials often define the religious activities of some ethnic groups as "splittist" activities in order to justify detentions and arrests.

Regional regulations in autonomous regions

Other laws specific to autonomous regions include the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Implementing Measures to the Law on the Protection of Minors [新疆维吾尔自治区实施《未成年人保护法》办法] ("XUAR Implementing Measures"), effective September 25, 1993, and the Tibet Autonomous Region Implementing Measures for the Regulation on Religious Affairs (Trial Measures) [西藏自治区实施《宗教事务条例》办法(试行)], effective January 1, 2007, ("TAR Implementing Measures").

The XUAR Implementing Measures prohibit minors from entering places that are "unsuitable for minors." This regulation has in effect barred young persons from receiving religious education and training. In addition to listing particular religious venues as "unsuitable," each region also has a local Protection of Minors Committee that can designate other venues as being unsuitable for minors. Article 14 of the XUAR Implementing Measures explicitly states that parents and legal guardians may not allow minors to participate in religious activities. Similarly, the TAR Implementing Measures are used by officials to curtail Tibetan nationalism and to stop religious activities deemed "unlawful" by the authorities.

The net effect of such local regulations is the gradual erosion of the cultural and religious heritage of ethnic minorities in XUAR and TAR.

^ Top


Denial of Access to Religious Education
In this section:

Local authorities in many regions prevent children and others from attending religious services, restrict their ability to observe religious customs in public spaces, and interfere in training for religious leaders. The concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child's 2005 review of China noted that, while PRC laws purport to guarantee freedom of religion, many Tibetan, Buddhist, Uyghur, and Hui children are unable to freely study and practice their own religions.

Official interference in religious training

Tibetan monasteries and nunneries once served as vibrant educational hubs. However, following the issuance of quotas on the number of monks and nuns allowed to be in residence at monasteries and nunneries at any one time, only several hundred monks remain in major monasteries today, where there were once thousands. This alone severely limits access to a full religious education in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Many Tibetan, Buddhist, Uyghur, and Hui children are unable to freely study and practice their own religions.

Priests, ministers, imams, Islamic scholars, and Buddhist monks face many other obstacles in gaining access to training. Students who seek to attend religious institutes must demonstrate "political reliability." The Southern Mongolian Human Rights and Information Center (SMHRIC) reports that Mongolian lamas must regularly report their activities to authorities. While the government permits members of the five registered religions to train religious leaders and go abroad for additional religious studies, many students have trouble obtaining passports and difficulty getting approval from the state to study abroad.

Minors and civil servants prohibited from entering religious buildings

In Uyghur, Tibetan, and Mongolian areas, children are often not allowed to enter churches, mosques, or temples. According to the XUAR Implementing Measures, children under 18 years of age are not allowed to attend services or enter places of worship. In recent years, there have been several instances of children being denied entry, or parents being warned against allowing their children to attend services. The implementation of the ban varies from place to place, and applies to all religions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). However, Uyghurs report that the ban is enforced against them more harshly than against other ethnic or religious groups.
In Uyghur, Tibetan, and Mongolian areas, children are often not allowed to enter churches, mosques, or temples.

Minors in the Tibet Autonomous Region also face similar restrictions. Tibetan students in Lhasa were prohibited from celebrating the holy month of Saka Dawa in May 2007, when the City Committee told parents that their children should refrain from visiting monasteries or else face expulsion from their schools. Checkpoints have been installed on the roads leading to Lhasa to ensure that children comply with the restrictions.

Additionally, ethnic minority individuals holding public office or government jobs are also sometimes barred from entering mosques or temples. It has been reported by Tibetans that Party members and civil servants face expulsion and dismissal if they pray at Buddhist temples in Lhasa. In 2006, it was reported by the United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China that XUAR authorities restrict certain types of individuals from entering mosques, including children, women, Party members, and government workers, including retirees.

Restrictions on observance of religious customs

The authorities prohibit the observance of any sort of religious customs or practices in schools, and students can be expelled for performing even the most basic practices of their religion, such as daily prayer, or possessing a Koran or other religious publication. For example, during Ramadan in September 2006, local government officials in Aksu District, Kargilik County, and Yarkand County in the XUAR required schools to enforce communal lunches for students and teachers to prevent them from fasting and participating in religious activities. In Urumqi, the city government increased surveillance of mosques and inspection of schools to enforce the rule against fasting.
There are also restrictions on any outward demonstration of religious affiliation in schools.

Authorities in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (IMAR) and XUAR also severely restrict the circulation and possession of religious publications and materials. In the IMAR, Buddhist publications have limited distribution and are tightly controlled. Mongolian individuals have reported that Buddhist materials cannot be read outside the temple. Since 2001, numerous schools in the XUAR underwent "clean-ups" in which books with content deemed to be "separatist" in nature were eliminated from libraries, teachers were investigated, and students were monitored in classes and dormitories, and told they would be expelled if they did not conform to ideological requirements. Ethnic minority students and teachers are regularly subjected to surveillance by school authorities, the Party, and Party-affiliated organizations.

There are also restrictions on any outward demonstration of religious affiliation in schools. Forms of dress or appearance "too closely associated" with Islam, such as men with beards or women wearing headscarves, are prohibited. In Tibet, students have been prevented from wearing amulet thread ("blessing strings").

^ Top


Patriotic Education and Nationalistic Indoctrination
In this section:

"Patriotic education" classes are compulsory at all levels of public education, as well as in centers of religious learning such as monasteries and mosques. Patriotic education is a euphemism for "government indoctrination campaigns that, in the Tibetan context, aim to crush separatist aspirations, replace religious devotion with secular obedience, and undermine the deep-seated respect most Tibetans feel for their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The authorities frequently employ humiliating and coercive methods, such as forcing Buddhist monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama in public, or to spit on his photograph." Patriotic education campaigns have been launched several times in Tibet and the XUAR since the CPC came to power. Although these campaigns are ostensibly meant for all age groups, youth are specially targeted for indoctrination.

Recent patriotic education campaigns following Tibet protests

Patriotic education is a euphemism for 'government indoctrination campaigns...'

In late March 2008, after the largest Tibetan protests in decades, patriotic education campaigns were launched in the TAR and other Tibetan areas. Chinese propaganda fanned an ultra-nationalistic fervor among ethnic Chinese, and portrayed the Tibetans as the source of the violence. Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu called for a broader patriotic education campaign on March 25, indicating that the Party would exert greater control over religion in Tibet, and require Tibetans to publicly denounce the Dalai Lama and recognize the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama.

In April, patriotic education was renewed in Lhasa with the theme "Opposing Separatism, Safeguarding Stability and Promoting Development." The campaign was targeted at the lay community, since the one launched in March focused on monasteries. The campaign again called for individuals to denounce the Dalai Lama in order to "deepen[] the anti-separatist struggle and counter-attack[] the Dalai clique's scheme to split [the country]." The renewed campaign includes "group education sessions" to "unify [Tibetans'] thinking," "deepen the struggle against independence forces," and "attack the Dalai clique's splittist plots."


Enforced condemnation of the Dalai Lama

Following the protests in March, authorities also conducted numerous raids on monasteries and destroyed artifacts and images of the Dalai Lama and other important religious figures. In one instance, images of religious teachers were torn and shrines smashed at Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, which was the site of a thousands-strong protest on March 16, 2008. Officials also reportedly trampled on photographs of the Dalai Lama. The patriotic education work teams sent to "re-educate" the monks at the Tongkor Monastery in western Sichuan Province searched the living quarters for images of the Dalai Lama and threw them on the ground. Monks and lamas were also required to publicly denounce and criticize the Dalai Lama.

Patriotic education leads to more unrest

A vicious cycle has emerged whereby government crackdowns and patriotic education campaigns have only succeeded in provoking increased resentment and protests in Tibetan areas, which in turn have led Beijing to deploy additional security forces. One scholar notes that the use of aggressive rhetoric and summary justice for even peaceful protesters in Tibet is certain to produce further animosity and conflict.

With the re-launch of patriotic education in Tibetan areas after the initial protests, work teams consisting of military personnel and other officials were deployed to Drepung Monastery, in order to (according to Xinhua News Agency) "restore religious order after violence involving lamas ravaged [Lhasa]." The "law education work groups" were also sent to other monasteries "to strengthen publicity and education about the country's legal system in the monasteries."

The arrival of the patriotic education work teams triggered further tension and unrest among the local Tibetan community. Laypersons as well as monks and nuns held a series of gatherings against patriotic education sessions being conducted at monasteries and nunneries. On April 3, 2008, a violent conflict occurred at Tongkor (Chinese: Donggu) Monastery near Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, when several hundred monks and laypersons demonstrated against the detention of two lamas who had opposed officials over patriotic education. Armed police opened fire on the protesters, killing between eight and 15 people, including three monks, six women, and one child. In another incident on May 19, 2008, a dozen monks at the Shelkar Choedhe Monastery in Tingri (Chinese: Dingri) County protested against patriotic education and the forced denunciation of the Dalai Lama, and were forcibly removed by PAP and PSB forces that evening. There have been numerous other reports of violence against protesters, as well as detention, disappearances, and harassment.

^ Top


HRIC's Advocacy and Media Work on June Fourth

HRIC advocacy and media work has sought to call attention to the serious and systemic problems relating to access to religious education in various regions of China. The following is a listing of HRIC advocacy and media work related to minorities and religious education, including press statements, reports, and articles. To subscribe to HRIC's press list, please e-mail communications@hrichina.org with "SUBSCRIBE" as the subject heading.
//

ENDNOTES

[1] Human Rights in China and Minority Rights Group, China: Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions (UK: Minority Rights Group, 2007), 10, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/36055.

[2] PRC Constitution [中华人民共和国民宪法], art. 36 (1982), http://english.people.com.cn/constitution/constitution.html.

[3] For a comprehensive discussion of the PRC State Secrets Law, see Human Rights in China, State Secrets: China's Legal Labyrinth (New York: Human Rights in China, 2007), http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/41500.

[4] Regulations on Religious Affairs [宗教事务条例], adopted at the 57th Executive Meeting of the State Council [国务院第57次常务会议] on July 7, 2004, promulgated and effective on March 1, 2005, http://tzb.shunde.gov.cn/data/main.php?id=819-130099.

[5] Xinjiang weiwu'er zizhi qu shishi 'Zhonghua renmin gonghe guo weichengnianren baohu fa' banfa [新疆维吾尔自治区实施《中华人民共和国未成年人保护法》办法], issued by the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region [新疆维吾尔自治区人民代表大会常务委员会], promulgated and effective on September 25, 1992, http://www.tianshannet.com.cn/GB/channel120/139/200306/16/35216.html.

[6] U.S. State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006," March 6, 2007, http://beijing.usembassy.gov/hr_report2006.html.

[7] Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Comments of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: China, 40th session, September 30, 2005, CRC/C/15/Add.271, para 44.

[8] Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang (New York: HRIC and HRW, Vol. 17, No. 2(C), 2005), available at http://hrichina.org/public/PDFs/Reports/HRIC-HRW-Xinjiang.pdf.

[9] International Campaign for Tibet, When the Sky Fell to Earth: the New Crackdown on Buddhism in Tibet (Washington, DC: International Campaign for Tibet, 2004), 47, http://www.savetibet.org/documents/pdfs/2004ReligionReport.pdf.

[10] U.S. State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2006," March 6, 2007, http://beijing.usembassy.gov/hr_report2006.html.

[11] Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang; "Chinese Curbs Leave Uyghur Youth in Crisis," Radio Free Asia, February 6, 2008, http://www.rfa.org/english/news/2008/02/06/uyghur_youth; "No Children Allowed in Xinjiang Churches," AsiaNews/Forum 18, March 30, 2005, http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=2898.

[12] Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, 58.

[13] Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, "China Intensifies Prohibition of Religious Activities in Tibet During the Holy Month of Saka Dawa," May 19, 2007, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1138.

[14] "Tibetan Government Officials Barred from Visiting Temples," Reuters, March 16, 2007, http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?article=
Tibetan+govt+officials+barred+from+visiting+temples&id=15996
.

[15] Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Annual Report 2006, http://www.cecc.gov/pages/annualRpt/annualRpt06/Religion.php#188a.

[16] Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

[17] Congressional-Executive Commission on China, "Local Governments in Xinjiang Continue Religious Repression During Ramadan," December 12, 2006, http://www.cecc.gov/pages/virtualAcad/index.phpd?showsingle=77986.

[18] Comment made at MRG-HRIC Workshop by WM23M, New York, July 27, 2006.

[19] Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, "China intensifies prohibition of religious activities in Tibet during the holy month of Saka Dawa," May 21, 2007, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1138.

[22] Melinda Liu, "Tibet: Bloody 'Patriotic education,'" Newsweek, April 5, 2008, http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/beijing/archive/2008/04/05/test-this-is-anothr-test.aspx; see also International Campaign for Tibet, "Mass detentions of monks, suicides and despair as enforced condemnation of Dalai Lama provokes dissent," April 29, 2008, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1302.

[23] For an analysis of the events in March, see: Robert Barnett, "Thunder From Tibet," New York Review of Books, Vol. 55, No. 9, May 29, 2008, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21391.

[24] International Campaign for Tibet, Tibet Press Watch, Spring 2008, p. 8, available at http://www.savetibet.org/documents/pdfs/tpw/TPW200801.pdf; see also "Wounded Lhasa residents recall horror after riot instigated by Dalai clique," People's Daily Online, March 21, 2008, http://english.people.com.cn/90002/93607/6378559.html.

[25] Maureen Fan, "China Moves to Tighten Control Over Religion in Tibet," Washington Post, March 26, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/25/AR2008032501665.html.

[26] See International Campaign for Tibet, "Mass detentions of monks, suicides and despair as enforced condemnation of Dalai Lama provokes dissent," April 29, 2008, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1302.

[27] International Campaign for Tibet, "Mass detentions of monks, suicides and despair as enforced condemnation of Dalai Lama provokes dissent," April 29, 2008, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1302.

[28] "China launches 'patriotic education' campaign in Lhasa to combat Dalai Lama," Associated Press, April 21, 2008, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/21/asia/AS-GEN-China-Tibet-Campaign.php.

[29] International Campaign for Tibet, "Eight Tibetans killed in Kardze: new phase in protests in Tibet," April 4, 2008, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1279.

[30] Robert Barnett, "Thunder From Tibet," New York Review of Books, Vol. 55, No. 9, May 29, 2008, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21391.

[31] "Work group to restore religious order after Lhasa unrest," Xinhua News Agency, April 12, 2008, http://www.china.org.cn/china/Lhasa_Unrest/2008-04/12/content_14938804.htm; International Campaign for Tibet, "Authorities acknowledge 4,000 detentions: thousands 'disappear' in ongoing Lhasa crackdown: Unrest at Drepung follows new Patriotic Education campaign," April 14, 2008, http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1289; International Campaign for Tibet, "ICT delivers UN statement on illegal killings by security forces in Tibet," June 5, 2008, http://savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1320.

[32] "Work group to restore religious order after Lhasa unrest," Xinhua News Agency, April 12, 2008, http://www.china.org.cn/china/Lhasa_Unrest/2008-04/12/content_14938804.htm.

[33] Melinda Liu, "Tibet: Bloody 'Patriotic Education,'" Newsweek, April 5, 2008, http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/beijing/archive/2008/04/05/test-this-is-anothr-test.aspx.

[34] Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, "12 monks of Dingri Shelkar Choedhe Monastery arrested for opposing the 'Patriotic re-education' campaign," May 31, 2008, http://www.tchrd.org/press/2008/pr20080531.html.

^ Top




[Human Rights in China Logo] [Creative Commons License - Some rights reserved]