BEIJING, China, 24 July 2018
Students in Tibet have been banned from taking part in religious activities over the summer holidays, Chinese state media reported Tuesday.
The ban will fall hard on Tibet’s large Buddhist community, already under pressure as Chinese President Xi Jinping tightens controls over religious observance.
The school regulations apply to all “underage students” in Tibet, the state-run Global Times reported, without specifying their ages.
The regulations follow similar edicts by the ruling Communist Party in other regions with large ethnic minority populations, starting with a clampdown on Islam in Xinjiang, a majority-Muslim region in China’s far west.
China is the midst of rolling out newly revised Religious Affairs Regulations, intensifying punishments for unsanctioned religious activities across all faiths and regions.
In Linxia, another heavily Muslim area in China’s west, minors under the age of 16 were barred from religious activity and study.
“We have sent notices to both students and their parents, and have had students sign an agreement that they will not take part in any form of religious activity during the summer vacation,” an official at a school in Tibet’s capital Lhasa told the Global Times.
Beijing says it “peacefully liberated” Tibet in 1951 and insists it has brought development to a previously backward region.
But many Tibetans accuse it of exploiting the region’s natural resources and encouraging an influx of the majority Han ethnic group, which critics say is diluting the native culture and Buddhist faith.
China’s constitution protects free speech and religion but critics say in reality there is little room for any opinions that challenge government policies.
This spring a Tibetan who campaigned to preserve his region’s ancestral language was jailed for five years for “inciting separatism” in a case which Amnesty International denounced as “beyond absurd”.
Local authorities declined to comment when reached by phone on Tuesday.