The Hot Zone
China's newly announced air defense identification zone over the East China Sea aims to shore up national security
Current Issue
· Table of Contents
· Editor's Desk
· Previous Issues
· Subscribe to Mag
Subscribe Now >>
Expert's View
Market Watch
North American Report
Government Documents
Expat's Eye
Photo Gallery
Reader's Service
Learning with
'Beijing Review'
E-mail us
RSS Feeds
PDF Edition
Reader's Letters
Make Beijing Review your homepage
Hot Links

cheap eyeglasses
Market Avenue

Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Background
UPDATED: April 23, 2008  
New Progress in Human Rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region


The sanitation and health conditions of today's Tibet and those of the old Tibet cannot be mentioned in the same breath. Smallpox was eradicated early in the 1960s, and some other dangerous infectious and endemic diseases have also been effectively controlled or wiped out. In 1996 the overall incidence of and the mortality resulting from 14 infectious diseases, such as typhoid fever, hepatitis, epidemic encephalitis and influenza, dropped by 45.52 and 67.16 percent, respectively, compared with the 1991 figures. By 1995 poliomyelitis had been totally eliminated. The government of the Tibet Autonomous Region is determined to keep in step with the other areas of China and stamp out diseases caused by iodine deficiency by the year 2000. In the old Tibet deadly infectious diseases such as smallpox and the plague were endemic. It is recorded that during the 150 years before Tibet was peacefully liberated there were four pandemic outbreaks of smallpox, one of which, in 1925, killed 7,000 people in the Lhasa area alone. Outbreaks of typhoid fever in 1934 and 1937 carried off a total of some 5,000 people in Lhasa.

The steady improvement of health care and living standards has raised the average life expectancy of Tibetans from 36 years in the old Tibet to the present 65 years. At the same time, the population of Tibet has increased rapidly and the protracted stagnation of population growth in the old days has changed completely. According to a thoroughgoing census carried out in Tibet during the period 1734-1736 by the Central Government of the Qing Dynasty, the population at that time was 941,200. About two hundred years later, in 1953, the local government of Tibet declared its population to be one million. That is to say, the population of Tibet was almost at a standstill for some two hundred years, only slightly rising by 58,000 people. But in the 40 years from 1953 to 1993, after Tibet was peacefully liberated, the population grew from one million to well over 2.3 million, of which the population of Tibetans increased by 1.16 million, or a more than two-fold increase in 40 years. By the end of 1996 the population of Tibet had reached 2.44 million, 95 percent of whom were Tibetans. This lays bare the lie that "The population of Tibet is decreasing," refutes the bluster about "Tibetans suffering from genocide" emanating from the Dalai Lama and some Western sources, and illuminates, from one aspect, the human rights situations in the new and old Tibet.

IV. The Right to Freedom of Religious Belief

The Chinese Government respects and protects its citizens' right to freedom of religious belief in accordance with the law. The Chinese Constitution stipulates that freedom of religious belief is one of the fundamental rights of citizens. Specific provisions on the protection of citizens' right to freedom of religious belief are also given in the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the Criminal Law, the General Rules of the Civil Law, the Education Law, the Labor Law and the Electoral Law Governing the People's Congresses. These laws are strictly observed in Tibet. At present, there are 1,787 sites for Tibetan Buddhist activities in the Region, and there are 46,380 Buddhist monks and nuns living in monasteries. The Tibetan Autonomous Region and the seven prefectures or cities under its jurisdiction all have their own Buddhist associations, and the autonomous regional Buddhist association has its own journal and establishment for printing Tibetan-language scriptures.

Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet the Chinese Government has accorded consistent respect and protection to the Tibetan people's right to freedom of religious belief. In 1951 the Central Government and the local government of Tibet, headed by the Dalai Lama, signed the 17-article Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, which explicitly stipulated that "In Tibet a policy ensuring the people freedom of religious belief will be carried out, the religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people will be respected, and the Lamaist monasteries will be properly protected. The Central Government will allow no change in the revenues of monasteries." In 1959, the Democratic Reform started in Tibet. The feudal privileges of the three major categories of feudal lords, including senior monks, as well as the system of exploitation, were abolished, and religion was separated from government. At the same time, the Central Government reaffirmed its stand for "respecting the freedom of religious belief and the customs and habits of the Tibetan people," and that the monasteries should be managed independently and in a democratic way by people of religious persuasion. In addition, the Central Government and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have ranked some famous religious sites, such as the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, and the Tashilhunpo, Drepung, Sakya and Sera monasteries, among the key historical sites under state or regional protection. Since the early 1980s the state has allocated special funds as well as gold and silver every year for the maintenance, restoration and protection of monasteries in Tibet, to the sum of over 300 million yuan-worth.

The state and the autonomous region have financed the maintenance and restoration of a number of famous monasteries, including the Jokhang, Palkor, Tselayungdrung, Mindrol, Samye (built in the eighth century), Tashilhunpo, Drepung, Sera and Ganden (the latter four being the four main monasteries of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism), the Jampa Ling in Qamdo, the Redreng, the Sakya Monastery of the Sakya Sect, the mTshur-phu and Karma-gdan-sa monasteries of the Karma Kagyu Sect, the Drigung Thil Monastery of the Drigung Sect, the Meru and Rala Yungdrung Ling monasteries of the Bon religion, and the Shalu Monastery of the Shalu Sect. The state allocated a special fund of more than 55 million yuan for the five-odd-year renovation of the Potala Palace involving a total floor space of 33,900 sq m. Another special fund of 6.7 million yuan, together with 111 kg of gold and over 2,000 kg of silver and a large amount of gems, has been provided to finance the restoration of the funerary stupas and sacrificial halls of the fifth to the ninth Panchen Lamas. In addition, the state has allocated 66.2 million yuan and 650 kg of gold for the construction of the funerary stupa and sacrificial hall of the 10th Panchen Lama. In 1994 an additional appropriation of 20 million yuan was made to further renovate the Ganden Monastery.

Much importance has always been attached in Tibet to collecting, editing, publishing and studying ancient religious books and records. Religious books edited and published in the 1990s include the Tibetan-language Chinese Tripitaka -- Tanjur (collated edition), A Tibetan-Chinese General Catalogue of the Tibetan Tripitaka, A Commentary on Tshad-ma sde-bdun, Five Treatises by the Family of Mercy, Annotations on Pramanavarttika Karika -- the Solemn Snowland and the Collected Works of Mani. More than 1,490 copies of the Tanjur of the Tripitaka, and a large number of pamphlets on Tibetan Buddhist practices, biographies of famous monks and treatises on Tibetan Buddhism have been printed to meet the needs of the various monsteries and the Buddhist monks, nuns and lay believers. Treatises on Buddhism written and published by religious research institutions, eminent monks and scholars include Collation and Studies of the Pattra Sutra, Compilation of the Sanskrit Pattra Sutra Extant in Lhasa, Studies of the Origin and Development of Religions and Religious Sects in Tibet, The Reincarnation System of Living Buddhas, History of Buddhism by Guta, Records of the Monasteries of the Tibetan Bon Religion, Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in China and The Fresco Art of Tibet's Buddhist Monasteries.

A total of 3,270 monks in Tibet have studied the Buddhist classics in classes run by monasteries, and more than 50 Living Buddhas, dGe-bshes (Buddhist doctors of divinity) and members of the democratic management bodies of Tibetan temples and monasteries have, in the past few years, taken advanced refresher courses at the China Senior Buddhist Institute of Tibetan Language in Beijing, half of whom have graduated.

The state holds in great esteem the system of reincarnation of Living Buddhas, which is characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism and an important succession method of the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism, and has profound respect for the religious practices and historical conventions of Tibet's main religion. In 1992 the Religious Affairs Bureau of the State Council approved the succession of the 17th Karmapa Living Buddha, in accordance with Tibet's religious practices. In 1995, a great event in the Buddhist world came to pass when the rite of drawing lots from a golden urn was carried out, and the boy who in Buddhist belief was the reincarnation of the deceased 10th Panchen Lama was identified, confirmed, given the title, enthroned and ordained as the 11th Panchen Lama in accordance with the religious practices and historical conventions and with the approval of the State Council.

Government departments at all levels treat all religions and religious sects, as well as all people, whether religious believers or not, in Tibet, equally and without any discrimination. They respect and protect all religious activities in accordance with the law. Religious and non-religious people, and the different sects of Tibetan Buddhism, in harmonious coexistence, also have mutual respect for each other. The internal affairs of temples and monasteries are independently handled by the management bodies formed through democratic elections. Buddhist monks and nuns, on their own initiative, study and debate the scriptures, attend lectures given by eminent monks, perform Abhiseka (consecration by pouring water on the head) and ordainment, disseminate Esoteric doctrines, perform Buddhist ceremonies, chant scriptures in the presence of believers, release the souls of the dead and pray for blessings by touching the heads. Religious people have the freedom to make pilgrimages to temples and monasteries, and holy mountains and lakes, including circumambulation around holy mountains and spinning prayer wheels. They are also free to offer sacrifices, give food or alms to Buddhist monks and nuns, burn incense and chant scriptures. Prayer banners, cairns of stones with scripture texts painted or carved on them and religious people devoutly prostrating themselves on the ground, spinning prayer wheels or on pilgrimages can be seen everywhere in Tibet; and prayer niches and shrines to Buddha can be found in the houses of almost all religious people. It is estimated that more than one million religious believers go to Jokhang Temple in Lhasa to pay homage and burn incense to Buddha each year.

Concluding Remarks

A host of facts show clearly that human rights in Tibet are making unceasing progress. The Central Government and the local governments at all levels in the Tibet Autonomous Region have made great efforts to safeguard and promote the progress of human rights in Tibet. The situation as regards human rights in old Tibet bears no comparison with the situation in Tibet today. The fact that human rights in Tibet have improved is beyond all dispute. All people, Chinese and foreign, who have been to Tibet and are acquainted with Tibet's history will draw such a fair conclusion. The Dalai Lama vilifies the present human rights situation in Tibet. But, ironically, under his rule in old Tibet human rights were wantonly trampled on in wide areas -- a crime stemming from the dark, savage and cruel system of merging politics with religion and the feudal serfdom. Making no mention whatsoever of the situation where trampling the people's basic human rights was commonplace in old Tibet, the exiled Dalai Lama has tried by every means to cover it up and vilify and attack the development and progress in new Tibet. He also fabricates sensational lies to befuddle world opinion. One of the fundamental commandments of Buddhism forbids the spreading of falsehoods. The Dalai Lama's wanton fabrication of lies and his violation and trampling of this commandment serve only to expose him in all his true colors: He is waving the banner of religion to conduct activities aimed at splitting the motherland.

People of all ethnic groups in Tibet are constructing the new Tibet with one heart and one mind. But since Tibet's economic and social development, which started at a very low level, is hampered by unfavorable natural conditions, such as its exceptional elevation, frigid weather and lack of oxygen, Tibet remains economically and socially underdeveloped. As a result, the human rights enjoyed by the Tibetan people have yet to be further improved. But the Central Government and Tibet's local governments at all levels will continue to make painstaking efforts to promote Tibet's economic and social development, consistently improve the people's lives and further promote the progress of human rights in Tibet.

Information Office of the State Council Of the People's Republic of China

February 1998, Beijing

(From china.org.cn)

   Previous   1   2   3   4   5  

Top Story
-Protecting Ocean Rights
-Partners in Defense
-Fighting HIV+'s Stigma
-HIV: Privacy VS. Protection
-Setting the Tone
Most Popular
About BEIJINGREVIEW | About beijingreview.com | Rss Feeds | Contact us | Advertising | Subscribe & Service | Make Beijing Review your homepage
Copyright Beijing Review All right reserved