Categoria: Press release

Xinjiang Authorities Launch Anti-Religion Campaign Through Local Police Stations

Authorities in Kashgar (in Chinese, Kashi), in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, have launched an anti-religion propaganda drive through local police stations, whose officers are rolling the campaign out to residents of the mostly ethnic Uyghur-populated prefecture, sources said.

A purported photo of a group of policemen from Kashgar’s Maralbeshi (Bachu) county holding a banner with the slogan “We Must Solemnly Reject Religion, Must Not Believe in Religion” recently drew attention on the WeChat social media channel, suggesting the launch of a campaign in the prefecture, which has one of Xinjiang’s largest concentrations of Uyghur Muslims.

An officer in Maralbeshi’s Yengisheher township police station, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recently confirmed to RFA’s Uyghur Service that the photo had been taken in his department as part of the campaign, before hanging up the phone.

Officers from two additional township police stations in Maralbeshi—Shi Tong and Awat—also confirmed that they were taking part in the anti-religion drive, before terminating the call.

Sources told RFA that the campaign began around two months ago and is intended to undermine the Islamic faith of local residents.

It was not immediately clear which level of government had initiated the campaign or how it was being carried out in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs complain of pervasive ethnic discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.

While Chinese authorities have claimed that previous crackdowns on religion are meant to weed out a small minority of the region’s population whom they deem “extremists,” Uyghur activists in exile maintain that they in fact target Islam and the Uyghur people, and the wording of the new campaign suggests a much broader scope.

Further investigation into the “We Must Solemnly Reject Religion, Must Not Believe in Religion” drive found that it is also under way elsewhere in Kashgar, as well as other parts of the Xinjiang region.

A police officer at the Baghawat township police station in Kashgar’s Yarkand (Shache) county confirmed to RFA that his department was taking part in the campaign, before refusing to answer further questions and hanging up the phone.

And a supervisor at the Aykol township police station, in the seat of Aksu (Akesu) prefecture, said officers were also participating in the campaign there, but would not discuss the scale of the drive or who its intended targets were, citing rules of confidentiality for the police force.

“Yes, we are all aware of it,” said the supervisor, who also asked to remain unnamed.

“Currently this campaign is being carried out in all government sectors, so how is it possible that we would not be aware of it?”

He referred additional questions to the head of the department—a party secretary surnamed Li, who he said was in a meeting and could not take a call at the time.

But an officer at the Qarqu township police station, in Hotan (Hetian) prefecture’s Keriye Nahiyisi (Yutian) county, told RFA that the campaign was being propagated to area law enforcement as well as “the general public.”

Prior “anti-religious extremism” campaigns have been spread through the government’s regional Communist Party cadres and propaganda officers, and the new campaign is the first known example of law enforcement taking part.

And while the authorities have openly restricted party members and cadres from religious activities in the past, the new campaign also marks the first known instance of religious restrictions extending to the police and local residents.

RFA was unable to determine whether those who refuse to follow the campaign will face punishment for continuing to practice their religion.

uyghur-anti-religion-campaign-kashgar-police-banner-400.jpg
Police display an anti-religion propaganda banner in Kashgar’s Maralbeshi county, February 2018. Credit: WeChat

Heavy crackdown

Since April last year, Uyghurs accused of harboring “extremist” and “politically incorrect” views have been detained in political re-education camps throughout Xinjiang.

Authorities have relied on a list circulated early last year of “75 Signs of Religious Extremism” to detain Uyghurs amid a string of harsh policies attacking their legitimate rights and freedoms enacted since Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo was appointed to run the region in August 2016.

Among the signs of extremism on the list were “storing or purchasing large quantities of food for home” and “acting abnormal,” and “praying in groups in public outside of mosques.”

But Communist Party secretaries in villages in Hotan prefecture recently told RFA that they were notified in April 2017 of several new “signs of extremism” security personnel should look for to determine whether a Uyghur is at risk of becoming an Islamic “radical.”

The new signs included those who, when at prayer, stand with their legs wide apart and place their hands above their chest, dye their hair red with henna, grow their hair or beards long, wear short trousers, or wear a watch on their right wrist, the sources said.

China regularly conducts “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang, including police raids on Uyghur households, restrictions on Islamic practices, and curbs on the culture and language of the Uyghur people, including videos and other material.

While China blames some Uyghurs for “terrorist” attacks, experts outside China say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from the Uyghurs and that repressive domestic policies are responsible for an upsurge in violence there that has left hundreds dead since 2009.

Radio Free Asia,2018-02-12

Tibetan Nun Dies After Years of Ill Health Following Prison Term

A Tibetan nun and former political prisoner, jailed for seven years after calling for an end to Chinese rule in Tibet, has died of complications arising from a chronic ailment she developed after being subjected to torture and poor living conditions during her incarceration, according to Tibetan sources.

Ngawang Tsomo(photo), 51, died on Jan. 27 in Phenpo Lhundrub (in Chinese, Linzhou) county in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Lhasa (Lasa) prefecture after her health began to deteriorate last year, a source inside Tibet told RFA’s Tibetan Service on condition of anonymity.

“In the summer, she went to receive treatment in Phenpo Lhundrub county, when her health condition became much worse,” said the source.

“She had developed an acute headache while she was in prison and, after her release, she was unable to seek proper medication for her failing health … As her condition recently became serious, she was taken to the hospital in Phenpo Lhundrub, but she passed away in the corridor of the building while waiting to receive treatment.”

The cause of Tsomo’s death was not immediately clear.

According to sources, Tsomo was arrested in 1993 and initially held in the Gutsa detention center after taking part in a peaceful protest along with several other people in Tibet’s capital Lhasa calling for an end to Chinese rule in Tibet.

A court sentenced her to seven years in jail “in a sham trial, without any due process,” before being moved to Lhasa’s Drapchi Prison, said a second source, who also asked to remain unnamed.

“While in jail at Drapchi Prison, like all other political prisoners, she faced inhumane treatment at the hands of the Chinese prisoner guards,” the source said.

Tsomo was among a group of inmates at Drapchi who in 1998 called for freedom in Tibet after prison authorities attempted to force them to salute China’s flag and sing the national anthem. Guards fired live rounds at the prisoners, killing two, according to the source.

“The [surviving] prisoners were kept under close supervision and suffered tremendously due to retaliation from Chinese officials,” the source said.

“Though she lived through the ordeal, Ngawang Tsomo was among those who were victimized by the Chinese authorities.”

Tsomo was released in 2000 after serving her full sentence, but “her time in jail took a serious toll on her physical health, and she became chronically ill due to the torture and suffering she sustained while in detention,” according to the source.

Additionally, Tsomo was prevented from reenrolling at her former monastery, due to laws prohibiting ex-prisoners from returning to their past lives as monks and nuns, and “faced numerous challenges in society … eking out a living doing odd jobs for all of those years.”

“She had faced so much hardship while alive, and though she is gone now, her legacy and courage will not be forgotten by generations to come,” said the source.

Radio Free Asia,2018/01/31

Authorities in China’s Qinghai Province Block Tibetans From Travel Amid Dalai Lama Teachings

Authorities in northwest China’s Qinghai province are blocking Tibetans from traveling outside the country by refusing to reissue passports confiscated from members of the ethnic group who attempted to attend a politically sensitive religious gathering last year, according to Tibetan sources.

The move affected hundreds of Tibetans traveling as pilgrims to India and Nepal and as tourists to other Asian countries, and came amid official concerns over Tibetans’ presence at a series of Buddhist teachings led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in January.

“This year, again, several thousand Tibetans went to the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Bodhgaya [India], but none of them were from Qinghai,” said a Tibetan from the province who traveled to Bodhgaya last year in the hopes of attending another gathering known as the Kalachakra, citing contacts in India.

The Tibetan, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA’s Tibetan Service that he and several other pilgrims were forced to travel home from India and miss the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra ceremony in January 2017 after receiving phone calls from Chinese security personnel threatening their families with harm if they failed to return.

Chinese immigration authorities destroyed their passports—which cost 5,000 yuan (U.S. $759) each and are good for 10 years—on arrival at the airport in Sichuan province’s capital Chengdu.

“They assured us that the passports would be reissued, but we went to the relevant government offices several times since then to request our passports and the authorities wouldn’t give them to us,” he said.

“My goal of attending the teachings in India this year went unfulfilled.”

Kalachakra, which means Wheel of Time, is a ritual that prepares devotees to be reborn in Shambhala, a celestial kingdom which, it is said, will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.

The ceremony and teachings are often conducted outside Tibet by the Dalai Lama, who is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a “splittist” seeking to separate Tibet, which was invaded by Communist China in 1950, from Beijing’s control.

This year’s month-long gathering consisted of a series of Buddhist teachings by the Dalai Lama which ended Tuesday.

Public notice

According to the source, local police stations in Qinghai had issued a public notice ahead of this months gathering that he said “banned Tibetans from listening to the Dalai Lama’s teachings in any manner,” and also “prohibited contact with Tibetans living outside of China.”

“The local authorities also warned that sharing or storing audio and video clips of the Dalai Lama’s teachings would constitute a serious offense, punishable under charges of ‘separatism,’ that would result in arrest and jail time,” he said.

In the meantime, the source said that while some “connected individuals” may have been issued new travel documents ahead of the event, “generally speaking, ordinary Tibetans have not been granted passports.”

“Thousands” of Tibetans who had traveled to Bodhgaya last year to attend the Kalachakra teachings were compelled to return after receiving warnings from Chinese authorities, he said, and “many of them had their passports cut into pieces” after arriving in Chengdu.

A second source, who also asked to remain unnamed, said that ahead of this year’s gathering, many of those who made it to India are from the Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture of historical Tibet’s northeastern Amdo region, which is comprised of parts of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces.

In September, sources told RFA that Tibetans whose passports were confiscated after traveling to India last year had still not been given new ones, and “believed that they were deliberately tricked” by the authorities.

They called the refusal to reissue the passports a “discriminatory action” that they said had also been applied to members of the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.

Earlier this week, Tibetans traveling to Bodhgaya from Sichuan province revealed they were also told to return home immediately or face “consequences,” forcing many to cut short plans to attend teachings by the Dalai Lama. Many had only recently been issued new passports and were surprised by the sudden policy change.

Radio Free Asia,2018-01-24

China reprimands companies calling Tibet and Taiwan independent

Chinese regulators have publicly reprimanded a string of foreign corporations, including Qantas, Zara and Marriott, for labelling Tibet and Taiwan as independent countries, in online drop-down menus.  Beijing’s action and the ire it stirred among Chinese towards multinationals illustrates the pressures such groups face as they look to appease an increasingly nationalistic and powerful Chinese consumer market.

“We welcome foreign corporations’ investment and operation in China,” said Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs, at a regular press briefing last week. “Meanwhile, they should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, abide by China’s laws and respect Chinese people’s national feelings.”  On Monday, Australian airline Qantas publicly resolved to correct a drop-down menu that identified Taiwan as a country after it was named and shamed in an investigation by Shanghai-based state media outlet The Paper which found 24 foreign airlines that purportedly listed Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan as sovereign entities.

The action comes after Beijing shut the Chinese website of US hotel chain Marriott International for one week after it described Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries in an email to customers. Outrage over the Marriott incident has prompted internet users in China to expose other foreign businesses for mis-attributing sovereignty, putting the likes of Zara, Qantas and Delta under scrutiny.

“Compliance has been rising in the list of priorities for MNCs, and that is all related to the new political climate under [president] Xi,” said Andrew Polk, the co-founder of business consultancy Trivium China. “However, complete compliance is impossible because of the political climate. Anything that you do can be deemed as breaking some norm or actual law or generally hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.”

Spanish fashion chain Zara and Medtronic, the American medical equipment maker, were singled out for labelling Taiwan as a separate country over the weekend, according to statements from the cyber space regulators. And executives from Delta Air Lines were summoned for a meeting with China’s civil aviation authorities on Friday for labelling Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries.

China says all three regions are its territory and has intensified diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since the Democratic Progressive party took power in 2016, replacing the more China-friendly Nationalist party, or Kuomintang. Beijing, which bars Taiwan’s representatives from most global organisations and opposes engagement with its senior politicians and diplomats, is highly sensitive about the international use of any symbols or nomenclature that appear to support Taiwanese sovereignty, despite frequent such mistakes.

China’s cyber space regulators put the hotel chain’s China operations under investigation and got a public apology from the chief executive, Arne Sorenson. “Marriott International respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite,” he wrote in a statement. Marriott has also fired the employee who liked a post supporting Tibetan independence from the company’s official Twitter account, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

“We got a sense of how regulators are competing with one another to show how vigorously they are implementing the cyber security law or supervision law to say, ‘we are protecting the core interests of the nation’,” said Mr Polk.  Officials in Taipei said that China’s actions did not help Beijing earn the trust of Taiwanese people. “Taiwan is undoubtedly a country,” a spokesperson for President Tsai Ing-wen told the Financial Times. “Wiping out the name of Taiwan off the internet will not wipe out our existence in the world.”

Financial Times,JANUARY 15, 2018

 

 

Sri Lankan daily halts Dalai Lama autobiography section under China’s pressure

DHARAMSHALA, January 9: A leading Sri Lankan daily, Irida Lankadeepa, has stopped the weekly publication of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s autobiography ‘My Land and My People’ following pressure from Chinese Embassy in Colombo.

Prasanna Sanjeewa Thennakoon, Editor of the section told Tibet.net that the management instructed him to hold the article ‘due to pressure from the Chinese Embassy’.

So far the newspaper has published the Sinhalese translation of the autobiography thrice from November 19 to December 3, 2017. Owing to the pressure, the weekly section has been halted since December 10, which was celebrated as the Nobel Peace Prize Day by Tibetans worldwide.

“They published three articles on three consecutive Sundays and members of our Society were also greatly inspired by this because we have been working to promote Buddhist brotherhood between Sri Lankans and Tibetans for nearly three years in spite of difficult circumstances,” Dr. Damenda Porage, President of Sri Lankan Tibetan Buddhist Brotherhood Society told Tibet.net.

Dr. Porage along with Ruwan Harischandra, the chief Sinhalese translator of the Dalai Lama’s autobiography, have urged the daily to continue the publication, which was earlier planned as a weekly series of fifty chapters.

“We have had experience of this disturbing nature to our Buddhist activities which aim to promote Buddhist brotherhood of these two age old Buddhist nations, Sinhalese and Tibetans. When we organized the photo exhibitions ‘Dalai Lama in Frames’ in Kandy and Matale, they had complained to the Criminal Investigations Department and they held an inquiry into our activities,” Dr. Porage explains the expected pressure from the Chinese Embassy.

He also rued Beijing’s interference over the launch of the Sinhala translation of ‘Nature of All Things’ by former Tibetan minister Chope Paljor Tsering at the University of Sri Jayawardenepura. Following the launch of the book on December 6, 2017, the embassy approached the Ministry of Defense and had a team sent for an investigation.

“These are really ridiculous and shameless acts because we are a law abiding peace loving society and we always serve for the sake of protecting and promoting Buddha Sasana. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country like Tibet,” Dr. Porage said.

Phayul,January 09, 2018

Chinese Authorities Demolish One Church, Close Another, in December

Chinese authorities have pressed their campaign against religious groups operating outside of state control in recent days, demolishing a Catholic church in the western city of Xi’an and shuttering a Protestant church in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, sources said.

In Shijing town in Xi’an’s Huyi district, authorities tore down a Catholic church at the end of December, sparking a protest by around 300 church followers who gathered later in front of district government offices with banners calling for the right to religious freedom, local sources said.

Led by the parish priest, church leaders are now beginning talks with local authorities, who he said have already apologized for the demolition, over the status of the church, local bishop Wu Qinjing told RFA’s Mandarin Service.

“It is not convenient for me to continue to make comments on this matter, however,” Wu said, noting the political sensitivity of the issue.

According to local church members, the demolished church was built in 1999, with a document issued at the time calling the church’s use of the land on which it was built “permanent.”

But on Dec. 20, 2017, local officials posted a notice outside the church saying that its construction had never been authorized and threatening “unconditional” demolition, church members said.

Nowhere to pray

Also at the end of December, police in Qorhas (in Chinese, Huocheng) county in Xinjiang’s Ili (Yili) Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture sealed off the entrance to the Qingshuihe town church, the U.S.-based China Aid Association News Network reported.

Worshipers at the church now have nowhere they can meet  to pray, church pastor Lou Yuanqi told RFA.

“They told us on Dec. 31 that we do not have permission to gather there,” Lou said.

“The door is now sealed, this time by the Public Security Bureau, and we are worshiping in a scattered way,” he said.

Freedom of worship was harshly restricted last year in China, where authorities “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups,” the U.S. State Department said in an annual report released in August.

Authorities in the country’s coastal Zhejiang province continued a campaign begun in 2014 to tear down Christian structures, including 600 crosses destroyed by the end of the year, while several church leaders resisting the demolition were detained and prosecuted, the State Department said.

Radio Free Asia, 2018/01/08

Ailing political prisoner interrogated for allegedly sharing information outside Tibet

DHARAMSHALA, December 28: The Chinese authorities have put a bedridden former Tibetan political prisoner under house arrest after interrogating him for hours for allegedly sending information outside Tibet, reported the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

Shonu Palden, 40, was reportedly interrogated over a report published by the Dharamshala-based Tibetan rights organization on December 18 that detailed the hardships he and his family faced following his imprisonment and the denial of admission in a school to his 8-year-old daughter.

“The [interrogation] officers insisted that there was a ‘political objective’ behind this sharing of information with outsiders,” a reliable source informed TCHRD on the condition of anonymity.

The father of three, who is kept under house arrest by local Chinese authorities in Machu County in Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gansu Province, was ‘severely reprimanded’ for allegedly sharing ‘unnecessary details’ about his situation with outsiders.

According to the TCHRD report, he was summoned to the Bhelpan Township Police Station at 10 a.m. (local time), where he was interrogated by the police and a group of County and Prefecture Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers till 7 p.m. (local time) yesterday.

As a part of further investigation, the PSB confiscated his phone and told him to stay at home until further notice.

While urging the Chinese authorities to stop the retaliatory actions against Shonu and to provide him a proper medical care, TCHRD said, “It is unacceptable that a child is subjected to punishment for the political activities of her father. Chinese authorities can no longer disregard and discredit the genuine and ever-increasing grievances of Tibetans by clubbing them under the deceptive label of so-called ‘national security crimes’.

The 40-year-old former political prisoner was released on July 24, 2013 before the completion of his prison term, to avoid death-in-detention and has been bed ridden ever since due to severe torture and shoddy detention conditions in Chinese prison.

He was arrested on June 18, 2012 and sentenced to two years and nine months in jail for spearheading the protests of March 2008 in Machu County.

Phayul, December 28, 2017