Continued Repression of Religious Minorities in Beijing

On May 24, papers criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities were accepted by a newly formed U.S. congressional committee on China. The committee has brought attention to the alleged continuing genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, which Washington claims is occurring. A U.S. official told Newsweek in March of this year that she was “especially alarmed” by China’s decision to enroll 1 million Tibetan children in a system of residential schools, which Beijing said was a component of a larger initiative to combat poverty.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC), founded by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949 and formally an atheist state, has come under growing attention in recent years for how it treats both the Buddhist population in Tibet and the Muslim Uyghur community in Xinjiang. The CCP’s worries about the danger organized religion poses to its power have led to the development of China’s policy toward religious minorities as a whole.

Under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman Mao Zedong, anti-religious operations were started in 1949, but they really took off during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Religious literature were also made illegal to possess. Repression and atrocities were committed throughout all of China, but the non-Han regions, including Tibet and Xinjiang, were particularly hard hit. The government was given free rein to attack and take action against religious institutions that were seen as representatives of the old ‘feudal’ order. Sacred books and teachings gathered in exile groups were taken to India by thousands of Tibetan refugees.

The 1982 Constitution stated unequivocally that “the state protects normal religious activities” in contrast to those that posed a danger to the wellbeing of the state. No one is allowed to undermine social order, endanger the health of individuals, or obstruct state-run educational initiatives using religion. “Normal religious activities” are understood to be religious practices made by organizations recognized by the government.

Jiang Zemin presided over the Chinese government from 1989 to 2002, at which time it started persecuting the Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong. Under Hu Jintao, the persecution of Tibetan Buddhists worsened. A monk named Tsewang Norbu committed himself at the Nyitso monastery in 2011 after the Chinese foreign ministry said only Beijing could choose the 15th Dalai Lama. He did so while shouting, “Long live the Dalai Lama” and “Tibetan people want freedom.” Following Xi Jinping’s 2016 order for Party members to operate as “unyielding Marxist atheists,” China stepped up its anti-religious activities. Since then, Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries have been the targets of increased persecution.

At Kirti Monastery, Yarchen Gar, Shak Rongpo Gaden Dargyeling Monastery, as well as other monasteries, Chinese military surveillance equipment has been erected. The Christian Science Monitor said in a report from November 1993 that “an influx of Chinese into the region, along with Beijing’s expanding infiltration of monasteries, threatens to bury Tibetan culture.” “In the past, the party attacked Tibet’s monasteries with guns and tanks,” said one Tibetan Buddhist monk. However, the government now attacks us from inside by using management committees and undercover cops.This is a considerably more complex technique for hastening Tibetan Buddhism’s demise. Because Tibetan Buddhism is closely linked to Tibetan identity, China’s strategy is to force its own version of Buddhism on the Tibetan people. The Tibetan identity may be controlled by the Chinese government if they can control Tibetan Buddhism. Thousands of Tibetans are now suffering in jails and detention facilities scattered over the rugged terrain of the area. The United States imposed sanctions on two individuals in 2022 for the arbitrary detention and physical abuse of members of religious minority groups in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. These individuals were Wu Yingjie, Tibet’s Communist Party Secretary from 2016 to 2021, and Zhang Hongbo, the region’s police chief since 2018.

China is oppressing all minorities, and it does so for a variety of reasons. According to a 2018 Associated Press article, “Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.” This has included steps done against “so-called underground or home churches that resist official prohibitions,” including “destroying crosses, burning bibles, closing churches and requiring adherents to sign documents renouncing their beliefs. Pastors will be required to educate their flocks to “always follow the Party” and to “study Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” starting in 2023.

Numerous news from China are related to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims as well as Beijing’s denial of these accusations. As part of its attempts to eradicate cultural, linguistic, and religious deviations from the nation’s dominant Han culture, the Chinese Communist Party constantly monitors Uighur Muslims. There is evidence that the CCP is on a campaign to physically and culturally exterminate Uyghur Muslims. Rashad Hussain, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, stated that the PRC government “continue[s] to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups” while releasing the US Department of State’s annual report on religious freedom around the world for 2022. The overall number of Muslims in China and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Eastern Turkestan) is impossible to determine with accuracy. Uyghur and Kazakh are the two primary Turkic languages spoken by Muslims in the Xinjiang area. Party policy regarding Uyghurs has always been discriminatory, but it has become much more so since Xi Jingping visited the area in 2014 and called for a “period of painful interventionary treatment.” In August 2016, Chen Quangao was appointed CCP secretary for the region. After Uyghur religious rituals were suppressed, political indoctrination increased via the arbitrary arrest of Uyghurs in camps run by the government, forced labor, harsh abuse, forced sterilisation, forced contraception, and forced abortion.

China presents its actions in the area as a response against radicalism. Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) acting China director, Maya Wang, claims that “the Chinese government outrageously yet dangerously conflates Islam with violent extremism to justify its abhorrent abuses against Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang.”More than a million Muslims have reportedly been unlawfully arrested by the Chinese authorities in reeducation centers since 2017. China initially denied there were any prisons in Xinjiang, but in 2018 it claimed to have established “vocational training centers” to combat what it claimed to be terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism in the area.

Diverse ethnic and religious groupings are seen as challenges to Han-centric ethnocentrism and risks to the legitimacy of the Chinese leadership. In November 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Office released a historic report on China’s oppressive practices in Xinjiang. However, China won a diplomatic success since the request to host a discussion on alleged rights violations against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s western Xinjiang province was rejected. This suggestion had been put out by Britain, Turkey, the United States, and other mostly Western nations. China’s actions are not only considered crimes against humanity by the US; Belgium, Canada, and the UK have also agreed that ‘genocide’ is taking place in Xinjiang. However, other nations in the Asia Pacific area, including Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, have refrained from holding China responsible. The employment of traditional diplomatic and economic policy instruments to assist improve the status of the minority is complicated by China’s significance to the global economy, massive and strong military, and permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *