Religious repression has further intensified with new regulations
The Chinese government has ordered citizens of Tibet to put shrines to Xi Jinping and Communist Party leaders inside their homes, replacing alters to religious figures like the Dalai Lama, according to information provided by Free Tibet’s research partner Tibet Watch.
Tibetans who are dependent on government subsidies or are on the poverty alleviation programme have been told their aid would stop if they fail to replace the images of holy Lamas they traditionally worship in their homes.
Authorities have told Tibetans to prostrate themselves in front of the images, in an act of deference and respect that would usually be reserved for Buddhist figures.
The order comes following a 9 to 13 January meeting of the People's Congress of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), the body through which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rules western and southern Tibet.
Photographs, which some have called propaganda, of Tibetan families smiling in their homes in front of shrines to communist party leaders have been put on official state media websites as part of the policy drive.
The session of the People's Congress saw Che Dalha, Party Chairman of the TAR, announce that Tibet had successfully reduced activities by “hostile forces” in the country. The statement is thought to be a reference to the Dalai Lama and the Buddhist exile community.
The Chinese authorities perceive any expression of Tibetan faith and traditional identity as resistance against their rule.
Pressure from the Chinese government on Tibetans to replace religious images with Party leaders has intensified over the past year, including a notable increase in pressure on Tibetans living in the countryside; in October and November 2018, during a flood of the Drichu River, Tibetans who were affected were reportedly told by authorities to save portraits of Chinese leaders and the Chinese flag over their own possessions.
In the Tibetan township of Domar, last year, the CCP ordered pictures of the Dalai Lama to be replaced with Chinese officials in all but two of the main monasteries. The local Communist Party’s ‘WeChat’ page announced details of the order, claiming it would “promote stability and protect the community’s welfare.”
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