Since ancient times, the Chinese believed that humanity must harmonize and merge with heaven. They emphasized that the Universe and the Earth march according to rules that follow divine laws imposed by the gods.
Many moral-spiritual beliefs have arisen in China, and various religions have developed, with different nuances that always converged in faith in God and the defense of righteous moral values.
“Man follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows Dao, and Dao follows what is natural,” asserted the Chinese philosopher Lao Zi some 500 years before Christ, summarizing the belief system that prevailed in ancient China.
In the last hundred years, the abrupt invasion of the communist spectrum has created a force that opposed divine nature and humanity, causing unlimited suffering and tragedy.
Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949, religions and spiritual beliefs were banned, intervened, and deformed. At the same time, their followers were persecuted, tortured, and killed for their faith.
The Cultural Revolution led by the dictator, Mao Tse Tung between 1966 and 1976, had the declared objective of preserving communism as the dominant and unique ideology. The communists sought to eliminate the five thousand years of traditional Chinese culture and belief in God, including the various religions in force.
With varying intensity according to historical periods, the harassment against religions and spiritual beliefs under Communist China continues today. In this article, divided into four parts, we will focus on the persecution of Tibetans, Uighur Muslims, Christians, and practitioners of the Falun Gong discipline, also known as Falun Dafa.
Tibet, history, culture and religion
Tibet is often described as a magical region that exhales peace, full of spirituality and an intense mysticism enhanced by the imposing natural environment of the Himalayas.
Time seems to have paused along with its culture that struggles to keep its native language, customs, and religion as transmitted by the millenary Tibetan ancestors.
The oldest human civilizations found in Tibet date back more than 21,000 years. From that time to the present day, various communities have lived together, often clashing until they were eliminated.
But historians agree that the history of Tibet began with the unification carried out by Songtsen Gampo between 605 and 617 AD. King Gampo managed to unify under one government all the peoples living in the valley of the Yarlung River, resulting in the foundation of the prosperous Tibetan Empire.
With the passing of the following kings, the Tibetan people also unified their religious beliefs until Buddhism was established as the official religion of the region.
Buddhism came from India, and since its arrival in Tibet, it combined the essential teachings of Mahayana Buddhism with tantric and shamanic Buddhism, along with certain practices of an ancient Tibetan religion called Bon, giving rise to Tibetan Buddhism.
The Tibetan empire also extended its borders, thus expanding its culture until, in the 780s AD, it opened its reign over territories that today belong to Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Nepal, China, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.
There followed several centuries of alternating periods of peace and war, both due to internal conflicts and to foreign empires attempting to advance on Tibetan territory.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Great Britain had colonized many neighboring countries, including India. In 1904 the British announced their interest in creating a border opening between India and Tibet. For this purpose, it ended up invading Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
In 1906, a historic peace treaty declared the Tibet region an autonomous zone under the British protectorate. But two years later, the treaty was amended, and control over Tibet was returned to China.
Officially the Chinese invasion began in 1950, when the CCP army defeated the scanty and weak Tibetan army, forcing it to sign a Plan for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. The Liberation Plan called for a joint administration of the Chinese regime and the Tibetan government.
Tibet suffered irreversible damage to its cultural and religious heritage in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The CCP destroyed Buddhist temples and monasteries while killing its monks and followers.
Despite the terrible persecution that persists with constant harassment by the CCP in Tibet, religious beliefs remain strong. Its citizens lead a life of surrender to the divine by following their spiritual beliefs.
Many Buddhist monks perform advanced spiritual techniques, including demanding meditations that open them to extraterrestrial visions. It is said that those who have developed the ancient techniques of Tibetan yoga can achieve far greater control over the body than other human beings, even being able to control body temperature, heart rate, and other ordinarily automatic functions.
Buddhists also maintain strict control over worldly impulses and desires, always seeking harmony and emotional stability in dealing with their problems.
70 years of communist occupation
The CCP took complete control of the vast Himalayan region in 1951 after Mao Zedong’s troops invaded Tibet’s weak and peaceful defenses. Over the next few years, the Chinese regime steadily tightened its grip on the region.
After eight months of hellish occupation and under evident pressure from the communist regime, the Dalai Lama, the 15-year-old Tibetan leader, signed the controversial “17-point agreement”, formalizing the annexation of Tibetan territory to China.
At that time, Tibet did not claim to be “independent” by mere whim or rebellion of its inhabitants. On the contrary, it had the characteristics that a proper country should have; a legitimate government, political leaders, religious leaders, language, army, local cultural and social norms widely rooted and accepted by the community.
The strength of the CCP quickly succeeded in breaking the Tibetan army in the eastern part of the country, and then put pressure on a delegation sent by the Tibetan government to negotiate in Beijing, threatening that failure to submit to the CCP’s demands would lead to a full-scale war with catastrophic consequences. Thus the 17-point agreement was signed, and China annexed the entire territory.
Specialists in Tibetan affairs often claim that after signing, China showed no inclination to honor its part of the agreement, including promises not to interfere with the functioning of the Tibetan government or the status and role of Tibet’s ruler and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
With the Chinese occupation, tensions in Tibet began to gradually escalate until, on March 10, 1959, the first major rebellion of the Tibetan people began in rejection of Communist oppression, and the Chinese military’s repression of the Tibetan people left some 86,000 Tibetans dead.
The three main monasteries of Lhasa: Sera, Drepung, and Ganden, were severely damaged by the bombings. And the Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile.
In the seven decades since the signing of the agreement, the Chinese regime has unilaterally instituted increasingly harsh policies seeking to undermine Tibetan culture and religion, systematically denying freedom of expression to the Tibetan people.
In addition, the CCP has exploited Tibet’s natural and economic resources for its profit without even improving the living conditions of the locals.
The Chinese regime has constantly denied Tibet’s independence by completely misrepresenting the true history and subjecting Tibetan children to fierce indoctrination processes, seeking to eliminate tradition and colonize the region’s CCP culture.
Over the years, any form of protest in Tibet against Beijing has been strongly repressed. The Dalai Lama and his followers claim that about 1.2 million people have died in the region during Chinese rule, mainly during the violent Cultural Revolution between 1960 and 1970.
Forced Sinicization in Tibet to this day
The Chinese Communist regime, after 70 years of applying extreme violence in the region, has not succeeded in eradicating the peaceful Tibetan culture. On the contrary, a systematic plan continues to transform the tradition from within and replace it with the values promoted by communism.
In December 2021, the Tibetan Human Rights Agency made an urgent appeal to the United Nations and the international community with a request: End the inhumane colonial school system of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Tibet, cited in a report by researchers from the Tibetan Action Institute that same year.
According to the report, three-quarters of Tibetan students, more than 800,000 children, are currently forced by the CCP government to live in boarding schools, including four-year-olds.
Researchers report that Tibetan children in boarding schools suffer severe psychological and emotional trauma due to regular physical and sexual abuse, racism, and brainwashing that contradicts the teachings and education received in their families.
The report said hundreds of thousands of Tibetan students between the ages of 6 and 18 in public schools run by the regime were forced to join the CCP, learn Chinese (Mandarin), and be educated in patriotism and the love of the party. They are isolated from family and community and cannot practice their religious beliefs.
If parents object to this type of boarding school, they are threatened by the CCP with accusations of being anti-government. The report alleges that a police officer told them that the intelligence apparatus can track “all chats on WeChat.” So if anyone refuses to send their child to school, it’s interpreted as a protest with all its implications.
“We track all chats on WeChat. If someone disobeys, we will deal with them one by one. For example, if someone does not accept this policy and refuses to send their child to school, we will take it as a protest,” the policeman said, according to the report.
Another perverse method of Sinicization used by the CCP in Tibet is implementing the so-called transformation through education camps. These are adult prisons run by the CCP throughout the country. Millions of inmates, mainly people persecuted for practicing their faith, are exploited for labor while undergoing a violent indoctrination process to make them abandon their beliefs.
According to a report published by Bitter Winter, these camps are also found in Tibet, where women, nuns, and girls, are subjected to “rape culture.” They are routinely abused by their guards, seeking with this terrible action, to break women’s ethnic and religious identity.
Rape is also accompanied by torture of all kinds. For example, bitter Winter’s Tibetan correspondents stated that guards in Tibetan re-education camps use cattle prods “to control and torture inmates, and it is common for them to use them to rape women by inserting them into their private parts.”
“This routinely happens to nuns, who are told that their bodies’ belong’ to the CCP, not to the monasteries,'” said a Tibetan source as revealed in the report.
The ultimate goal of this aberrant act is that after a nun has been sexually violated, it is expected that she will not wish to return to a nunnery and will decide to continue with secular life.
Rinzen Kunsang, a Tibetan nun, was arrested for participating in demonstrations. She then managed to escape into exile and from there gave her testimony to The Taiwan Times:
“We were handcuffed and stripped. Two women beat us with bamboo sticks and prodded us with electric batons … Beatings occurred at every interrogation session…. Then they beat me with a stick. They hit so hard and so many times that the sticks frequently broke. During the beatings I often fainted. The pain was not felt much at the time but in the following days the whole body would keep throbbing with pain.”
Ms. Adhi, a Tibetan woman, told the Taiwanese media about her ordeal in prison. She was arrested along with 100 other women for participating in protests and, once in prison, was selected to feed the pigs.
This grueling task became a source of livelihood, as she recurrently managed to smuggle the pigs’ food to the monks and other prisoners or ate it herself. The food offered to the inmates was so detestable that pig food was considered a delicacy in prison, Adhi said.
This work was maintained only in exchange for sexual favors for Chinese officials.
Abuses in re-education camps also affect men in Tibet. According to a study published last September by the Jamestown Foundation, the Chinese regime forced more than 500,000 Tibetans to go to such camps with the aim of training “surplus rural laborers” into industrial workers during the first half of 2020.
After completing “vocational training” in the camps, which includes political indoctrination designed by the CCP, the study claims that Tibetans are transferred to work in factories under appalling conditions elsewhere in China.
The Dalai Lama, translated into English as “reincarnated master” or “guru,” is the title given to the highest spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetan Buddhists understand the Dalai Lamas to be incarnations of Avalokiteśvara, a kind of saint or Buddha considered the patron saint of Tibet.
According to the Buddhist religion, after the death of a person, his consciousness takes forty-nine days to incarnate again in a person. The Dalai Lamas are no exception. After that period, he reincarnates in the body of an infant who already, from birth, has given signs of his extraordinary character.
After the death of a Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama, the second religious authority, recognizes his reincarnation using established signs.
The current and fourteenth Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, who in 1940 at the age of five was proclaimed the incarnation of the deceased thirteenth Dalai Lama. At the age of 15, he had to assume full political power as head of the Tibetan government, coinciding with the turbulent years of the communist invasion of Tibet.
In 1959, after enormous pressure from the CCP, he fled to exile in India, undertaking a dangerous journey on foot across the Himalayas together with some 80,000 Tibetans. Tenzin Gyatso was declared head of the government in exile on Nov. 17, 1959, and currently resides in the Indian city of Dharamsala, also known as Little Lhasa, where some 130,000 Tibetan refugees also live.
Today, the Dalai Lama, besides being the Guru of Tibet, has become a kind of pop icon and spiritual guide for Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the West. Especially after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, he has gained worldwide recognition.
He has also received significant criticism from some sectors for being lukewarm when intervening in claims against the Chinese regime for the liberation of Tibet or war conflicts involving governments officially declared as Buddhists, such as Burma and Sri Lanka, reported the New York Times.
“Free Tibet”: The liberation movement in the world
A movement began to develop in the 1990s and grew in strength in the West under the slogan “free Tibet.” Many organizations emerged promoting important demonstrations in major cities around the world, denouncing the Chinese regime’s subjugation of Tibetan Buddhists.
Over the years and with the development of the media, the movement has spread around the world, especially since show business stars such as Richard Gere and many other celebrities and famous athletes, such as recently the renowned NBA basketball player Enes Kanter, have taken up the cause.
The considerable movement and individual efforts to reverse the situation in Tibet have been significant—they have partly succeeded in informing the world of what is happening there. The claim against the Chinese regime is now on the agenda of several countries and institutions globally, but so far, the efforts made have not achieved much more than denouncing and spreading the injustices.
To this day, the CCP continues to persecute Tibetan Buddhists viciously. For example, in December 2021, the CCP authorities demolished a 30-meter Buddha statue and forced Tibetan monks and other residents of Kardze village to witness the destruction of the revered monument.
The CCP is bent on destroying Tibetan identity and breaking down the traditional values they promote based on benevolence, tolerance, and inner peace that would serve so well in today’s globalized world of violence, evil, and lack of moral standards.