Calling Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed policy directions on Tibet “misguided” and “unrealistic”, Tibet’s India-based exile government slammed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader’s call to Sinicize the Tibetan people’s Buddhist religion.
Xi Jinping has laid out four key policy directions on Tibet which include combating ‘separatism’ and Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism, at the 7th Central Symposium on Tibet in Beijing on 29 August.
“Tibetan Buddhism should be guided in adapting to [China’s] socialist society and should be developed in the Chinese context,” President Xi had said.
In response, Lobsang Sangay, political leader of Tibet’s exile Central Tibetan Administration said that China’s efforts to make Tibet’s centuries-old faith comply with China’s culture and political goals are misguided and unrealistic.
“For Tibetans, Buddhism is more important than Communism,” Sangay said, calling Beijing’s attempt to raise China’s political system over the Tibetan people’s faith “a violation of international religious freedom.”
“[The] Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism is never going to work,” Sangay said. “The last 60 years of Chinese rule in Tibet is a testament to that fact.”
Responding to Xi Jinping’s claim of building ‘an impregnable fortress’ in Tibet, Dr Sangay explained that “to foster stability in Tibet, China must first address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people and not forget the 154 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese policies in Tibet.”
“The root cause of instability in Tibet is not the Tibetan people’s faith, but the repressive and failed policies of the Chinese government. The continuation of these hard-line policies and repression is only going to make matters worse,” Sangay said.
Expressing concern at China’s military build-up on the Tibetan plateau, Dr Sangay raised the issue of China’s military expansionism and its intentions on the ‘five fingers’ as well as on the border regions of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
“China has been quietly militarizing the Tibetan plateau for over 60 years under the pretext of development and modernization. For Tibet, this has only led to an influx of soldiers, Han settlers, and weapons,” he said.
“China considers the security and stability of China as dependent on the security and stability of Tibet. Hence the increasing militarization of Tibet is a serious source of concern for the Tibetans as well as India and Asia’s security at large. Restoring the status of Tibet as a zone of peace with its historical demilitarized border with India is the only way of enduring peace in Asia,” Sangay asserted.
Chinese police and surveillance teams now regularly monitor life in Tibetan monasteries for signs of opposition to China’s rule, according to sources. Meanwhile, authorities interfere with Tibet’s traditional recognition of senior Buddhist monks and other religious leaders in order to install politically compliant figures of their own choosing.
On August 29, Xi Jinping introduced four key policy directions to “fully implement the Party’s strategy of governing Tibet in the New Era”.
Firstly, he called for efforts to “combating separatist activities” in Tibet and forging “an ironclad shield” to ensure “stability in the region”. Secondly, he pledged to build a “new socialist modern Tibet” that is “united, prosperous, civilised, harmonious and beautiful”.
Most controversial was Xi Jinping’s call for complete sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism aimed at obliterating Tibetan Buddhism from the face of the earth.
Speaking to party, government and military leaders at the CCP’s highest-level meeting on Tibet, Xi demanded that Tibetan Buddhism should be adapted to socialism and “developed in the Chinese context”.