Ever since China’s illegal occupation of Tibet in the 1950s, Tibet has only witnessed its downfall and the Tibetan people have and are suffering endlessly under the strict communist regime. The year 1959 saw the first biggest uprising in Tibet after which His Holiness the Dalai Lama along with thousands of Tibetans had to flee to exile in India. China’s entry into Tibet resulted not only in the loss of land or sovereignty but also in the grave loss of freedom of the people. Tibetans in Tibet especially have lived under the strict surveillance of the Chinese authorities and the issue of the lack of fundamental rights in Tibet has become fairly common. The lack of rights to practice one’s own religion, language, tradition and culture has been an ongoing phenomenon and will continue to do so till Tibet is completely Sinicized. The schemes, policies and propagandas proposed in Tibet have always been aimed towards strengthening the hold of the Chinese Communist party on the Tibetan people and their livelihoods.
President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on the “sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism” led to the intense restrictions imposed on the Tibetan monastic institutions and practitioners, directly affecting their freedom to practice their religion and belief. This was particularly one of the top ten strategies for governing Tibet in the new era at the high level Seventh Tibet Work Forum in August 2020. The practice of Buddhism in Tibet is considered as one of the biggest threat to the Chinese ultimate plan of Tibet’s Sinicization. The construction of the Xiaokang Villages in Tibet was also done mainly to monitor and restrict any Pro-Dalai Lama movements at the border. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is seen as the ultimate threat by the Chinese Communist Party which is why he is always targeted. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at various occasions has been given degrading titles such as “the separatist” or “a wolf in the monk’s robe”. Not only have they made such remarks, but the Chinese government has now stooped to the level to even claim authority upon the appointment of the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama.
Lu Kang, former Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman has also made statements in the past stating, “Reincarnation of living Buddhas, including the Dalai Lama, must comply with Chinese laws and regulations and follow religious rituals and historical conventions.” The Chinese authorities have always put emphasis on how they respect the religious freedom of all their citizens whereas the actual status shows the opposite. They have continued to make these baseless claims and have called it their right to do so. This is not the first instance where they have tried to interfere directly in such significant religious issues of Tibet as such. The Panchen Lama is another highly important religious leader in Tibetan Buddhism and in the 1990s, when the search for the 11th Panchen Lama was in process, the candidate chosen by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama disappeared. This is still known as one of the biggest abduction schemes to ever have taken place. The whereabouts of the Panchen Lama are still unknown and the Chinese authorities have also stepped back from making any statements regarding it.
Not only was the Panchen Lama kidnapped to never be seen again, another candidate was put in his place by the Chinese government. Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese Panchen Lama is still playing the role but under the constant and strict surveillance of the Chinese Communist Party. His existence is merely a show for the world to highlight China’s fake religious freedom. Tibetans in Tibet are forced to attend his teachings which are another scheme through which China is trying to fake the fact that he is accepted by the Tibetan masses. Their denial to attend such teachings would lead to strict punishment or imprisonment which is why Tibetans are helpless at the hands of the Chinese authorities. China, stirring up issues regarding the next reincarnation or appointment of the Dalai Lama is also to gain absolute power over the Tibetan Buddhism.
Religion and especially, Tibetan Buddhism and the people’s faith in the Dalai Lama is the biggest threat of the communist government and it is also the biggest obstacle that hinders the completion of the sinicization process. In January 2022, there was news from Tibet of a grave announcement being made. The Chinese officials went as far as to announcing that Tibetans who would be looking for work in their region’s sector state must first renounce all ties to the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a condition of employment. The criteria to always remain loyal to the ruling Chinese Communist Party has always been a criteria for Tibetans to follow religiously. It is sheer absurdity that Tibetans in Tibet have to follow such rules. It comes as no surprise that it is however their only way of survival since their denial to comply would result in their basic rights being denied.
The bill passed by the U.S Congress titled the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) promises great support for Tibet and its people through humanitarian projects and sanctions of Chinese abuses. China being a major, powerful country makes the freedom struggle of the Tibetan people a tough act to follow but the truth should, in any case emerge victorious in the end. China has never had any say in the reincarnation issues, be it in the past or in the present. This conflict will add further onto the already prevalent conflict between the two nations but China’s illegal occupation of Tibet or their current forced authoritarian regime in Tibet gives them no right or power over the other significant matters of Tibet or of Tibetan Buddhism.