In March 2010 the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, accused China of attempting to “deliberately annihilate Buddhism”.
In Tibet, many people’s lives are dedicated to Tibetan Buddhism.
Religious customs are part of everyday life, from chanting mantras and prostrating in a local square to walking the ‘kora’ around a temple or sacred site.
China wishes to control and limit Tibetan Buddhism in order to weaken Tibetan identity and strengthen its control over Tibet.
Monks and nuns face restrictions on their practice and China’s military put on shows of force at religious events. Access to important pilgrimage sites is restricted and many sacred lakes and mountains have been dammed and mined without Tibetans' consent.
Since 2016, Larung Gar – the biggest Buddhist institute in Tibet, and indeed in the world – has been the target of a major assault. Thousands of individuals have been evicted and thousands of homes demolished – and these removals continue today
Are you a person of faith? We are building a coalition of religious leaders to join us. We will tell China that we will not accept any Dalai Lama chosen by them, and that the position must be filled as per the customs of Tibetan Buddhists. Click through to see how you can help.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has stated that the US government must continue to list China as a “country of particular concern” for religious freedom.
The Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama
The belief in reincarnation and the role of lamas - spiritual teachers - are fundamental aspects of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism and is considered to be the reincarnation of Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.
For generations, Dalai Lamas have also been the rulers of Tibet but the current Dalai Lama, the 14th, has given up any political role and is now a purely religious figure. After a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, the current Dalai Lama fled into exile in India followed by tens of thousands of Tibetans.
Because of the Dalai Lama’s central place in Tibetan culture and national identity, the Chinese government sees him as an enemy of the state and is trying to break the bonds between him and the Tibetan people. In most areas of Tibet it is illegal to sell or possess images of the Dalai Lama.
Another important figure in Tibetan Buddhism is the Panchen Lama. Tibetans refer to the Dalai Lama as the sun and the Panchen Lama as the moon.
In 1995, the Chinese authorities abducted six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima just days after he had been identified by the Dalai Lama as the new Panchen Lama. To this day, nothing is known about his and his family’s whereabouts or wellbeing. The Chinese authorities recognised a different Panchen Lama to attempt to strengthen China's control over Tibet; Tibetans refer to him as the 'Panchen Zuma', or 'false Panchen'.