Last week as Tibetans around the world celebrated Tibetan Uprising Day, which marks the 1959 revolt against Chinese rule in Lhasa, Time Magazine published an article suggesting that the Chinese government is using Christian missionaries to “dismantle” Tibetan Buddhism:
Missionary work remains illegal in China and is viewed as a tool of Western infiltration. In 2011, officials issued a secretive 16-page notice ordering universities to counteract foreigners suspected of converting students to Christianity. But in parts of Qinghai proselytizing is being quietly tolerated, according to Robert Barnett, a Tibet scholar at Columbia University. He cites estimates that as many as 80% to 90% of the few hundred foreigners living in Xining are fundamentalist Christians.
Barnett believes the reason for the government’s tolerant attitude is twofold. First, American missionaries, often funded by their churches, provide a valuable service teaching English for scant pay. Second, by targeting Tibetan Buddhism, missionaries might just help the government erode this integral part of Tibetan identity.”
This particular tactic was the subject of another article, published last month by the Guardian.
Tensions are rising. The self-immolations has now risen to over 100. On Tibetan Uprising Day, March 10th, Nepalese police arrested 18 people in Kathmandu on suspicion of “anti-China activities”, although they were released later that day. According to reports, a court in western China’s Qinghai province sentenced a popular Tibetan singer up to six years in prison for calling for an end to Chinese rule, while a monk who had written some of his lyrics has also been imprisoned on unspecified charges after he was tortured in detention.
On the more positive side, Tibet is expected to be open to the outside world this summer in a pan to attract more visitors from aboard, Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet region legislature, disclosed on Wednesday.
China has a new president, Xi Jinping, but there is little expectation that things will change. By allowing Christian missionaries to target Tibetan, for their proselytizing it seems that China is intent on destroying Tibet Buddhism and Tibetan culture. For years China has indoctrinated its people with the view that Tibet is an integral part of China, and that the freedom movement is the product of a conspiracy by foreigners with the “evil” Dalai Lama identified as one of the top co-conspirators.
Over the years, the Dalai Lama has expression his appreciation to Christians in the region for their efforts to prevent persecution, and he has noted that Tibet’s land and culture is a gem that all people, regardless of their religion should admire.
When the gem was mine
I cared not, and ignored its value.
Now that the gem is lost to others,
Melancholy overwhelms me
As its pure worth dawns on me”
Tsangyang Gyatso, 6th Dalai Lama