US Governments highlights lack of religious freedom for Tibetans in its annual report

On October 14, 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom. In his remarks, Secretary Kerry stated: “The message at the heart of this report is that countries benefit when their citizens fully enjoy the rights to which they are entitled.” Kerry further urged “the release of men and women destined or imprisoned anywhere in the world for the peaceful expression and practice of their religious beliefs.”

The report’s section on Tibet states that in the TAR and other Tibetan areas, “authorities severely restricted religious freedom and engaged in widespread interference in religious practices, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.”

The report observes that authorities restricted the number of monks and nuns in Tibetan areas, and restricted the movement of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, seeking to travel to India for religious purposes, in many cases refusing to approve passport applications. In its discussion of self-immolations as a protest against government policies, the report cites ICT’s research on criminal prosecutions of individuals associated with self-immolations on “intentional homicide” charges.

With respect to reincarnation, the report notes that the government “continued to exercise its authority over the approval of reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist lamas and the supervision of their education,” and references a 2014 China Daily article that reported the establishment of a Leading Group for Identifying Buddhist Reincarnate Lamas in the TAR and the release of a new implementing regulation for “Tibetan Buddhist Reincarnation Management” to ensure Communist Party control over the reincarnation process.

During a press conference held at the US State Department on October 14, on the occasion of the release of the 2014 International Religious Freedom Report US Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom David Saperstein, stated responding to a question regarding China’s claim that it has the right to select the new Dalai Lama: “We think that every community, including the Tibetan Buddhist has the right to choose its own monks, its own lamas and its own leaders, and we have been consistently critical of the Chinese efforts to decide who religious leaders of any faith group should be”.

“We welcome this report as a reiteration of the United States’ commitment to promote religious freedom worldwide, including in Tibet, where the Tibetan people are still prevented from practicing their faith free from fear and from intimidation,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

Read here the Tibet section of the State Department’s 2014 Report on International Religious Freedom.

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