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China watchers denounce new Chinese ruling on religion


The US Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Tibetan People’s Movement are condemning China’s new laws aimed at controlling the selection of the next Dalai Lama and ordaining its own Roman Catholic priests.

The laws, which went into effect on 1 September, state, in part, "No outside organisation or individual will influence or control the reincarnation of living Buddhas [eminent monks]."

In a statement released on 31 August, the US commission said the law is "clearly designed to undermine the influence of the Dalai Lama."  The commission has shed greater light onto violations of religious freedom in China as Beijing prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

Most Tibetans are said to believe that eminent monks, such as the Dalai Lama, Buddhism’s spiritual head, are reincarnated after death.

China has held a centuries-old claim on Tibet, the Himalayan region west of the main Chinese territory, and enforced its control with a military invasion in 1951. The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 to India, where he remains.

The Dalai Lama, who was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize and a U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, has just turned 72. A special envoy has represented him periodically in negotiations on an autonomy arrangement for the region.

The Chinese government will now have the final say over who can be selected as a reincarnated monk. The religious bylaw by an atheist government came into effect on the eve of Tibetan Democracy Day, commemorated by Tibetan exiles every 2 September.

China’s new religious laws also reassert China’s right to name Catholic bishops, a law that has been rejected by the Vatican.

According to the US commission, such suppression of religious freedom "again demonstrates Beijing’s violation of international covenants recognising the basic right of religious communities to choose their religious leaders and teachers".

The statement said China’s insistence that it choose bishops "is a violation of China’s international obligations and further sets back any rapprochement between the ‘unregistered’ and ‘official’ Catholic churches in China". [

(c) Ecumenical News International