How to understand religious policy in Tibet
Gao Ying

Editor's note: Gao Ying is an associate researcher at the Institute of Religious Studies of the China Tibetology Research Center. The article reflects the author's views, and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The policy of freedom of religious belief is a basic national policy enshrined in China's constitution. It guarantees people the freedom to believe or not to believe in a religion and what religion they choose to believe in.

In Tibet, this policy was established during China's democratic reform. The democratic reform that began 60 years ago changed the "theocracy" system in old Tibet, abolished the exploitative system and removed the privileges of temples, restored religious functions that Lamaism should have, helped temples to refocus on their true religious purposes and granted people the freedom of religion. 

However, this has not stopped some Western countries from using the so-called "religious freedom" to stir trouble on the Tibet issue and interfere in China's internal affairs.

In fact, China has always attached great importance to and respected Tibet's unique culture and religion. Through democratic reforms, the policy of freedom of religious belief was established in Tibet, and Tibetan people are free to choose their religious beliefs.

After the reform and opening-up, this policy has been continuously consolidated and deepened on the basis of a comprehensive understanding and scientific study of the actual situation in Tibet. People's freedom of religious belief is protected by law. Various rules and regulations have been established to protect the legitimate rights and interests of religious activities, monks and nuns.

The Palace Museum hosts an exhibition on ‍Buddhism, Beijing, China, October 24, 2018. /VCG Photo

The Palace Museum hosts an exhibition on ‍Buddhism, Beijing, China, October 24, 2018. /VCG Photo

For example, people can enter registered religious sites and take part in law-based religious activities according to their wishes. Some religious festivals, customs and ceremonies have been restored. Different sects and religions are also protected by law without discrimination, which helps to get rid of discrimination and inequality among sects.

Religious culture and cultural relics have been protected and repaired. Sanskrit Patra, the precious carrier of ancient Buddhist scriptures, has undergone unprecedented remedial, protection and research efforts. 

The government has also organized remedial, compilation and publication of a large number of ancient books, including Tibetan Buddhist scripture, Bon scripture, religious rituals, biographies of eminent monks and saints and religious works, thus spreading the best of Tibetan religion to the whole country and the world.

The policy of freedom of religious belief protects the legitimate rights and interests of religious believers, and the state has responded to the needs of Tibetan monks. A series of policies to benefit monks and temples have been issued and won the support of monks and nuns and people from all walks of life. For example, monks over 60 years old in the temple can receive pension, preferential treatment or longevity benefits, and the monks with special difficulties and the old, weak, sick and disabled monks can receive a minimum living allowance.

In addition, the state also attaches great importance to the education and training of Tibetan monks and nuns. It has established the Tibetan Buddhist Academy in Lhasa, the High-level Tibetan Buddhism College of China in Beijing, and ran scripture courses in more than 40 temples in Tibet to ensure that aspiring monks and nuns can receive adequate religious education and improve the educational attainment of the majority of monks and nuns.

The reincarnation of tulku is also protected by law and recognized by the state. Religious personages also have the right to participate in the deliberation and administration of state affairs in accordance with the law. People from religious circles are serving as representatives in People's Congresses at all levels and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Buddhism associations and governments at all levels.

It is obvious that the policy does not restrict or undermine the religious beliefs of the Tibetan people. On the contrary, it has protected their religious beliefs and culture, allowed them real freedom to believe in religion, and ensured the healthy and steady development of Tibet.

On the Tibet issue, Western countries, on the one hand, place their hopes on shaping China with their own secular model and telling China what to do on a moral high ground; on the other hand, they measure China against their own religious freedom standards and try to discredit and suppress China.

The religious freedom hyped by the West for a long time is based on the history of Western monotheism and the major premise of Western culture. This method cannot be applied to our country. 

However, the replication and even universalization of this religious freedom in the West is done mainly due to their ignorance of other cultures and religions and the arrogance ensued, resulting in a sense of superiority and arbitrary interference in other cultures and religion in a bid to make their own religious freedom system the only gold standard. 

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