Cablegate: Tibet: Religion Management Officials Explain Their System

DE RUEHCN #0288/01 3410758
R 070758Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. A) 07 CHENGDU 298; B) 08 CHENGDU 43; C) CHENGDU 248;
B. D) CHENGDU 251; E) 08 CHENGDU 39;

CHENGDU 00000288 001.2 OF 003

1. (U) This cable contains sensitive but unclassified
information and is not for internet distribution.

2. (SBU) Summary: The Tibetan Autonomous Region's (TAR) Ethnic
and Religious Affairs Bureau recently presented to Consul
General in Lhasa the strictly Chinese government, official view
of: the TAR's ethnic and religious composition, and regulation
of religious affairs, including the permissions process for
becoming a monk; the work of monastery democratic management
committees and government working groups that do "patriotic
education" work in the monasteries; the Panchen Lama
controversy; and strong government support for the rebuilding
monasteries damaged during the Cultural Revolution. Gedun
Cheokyi Nyima, the young Tibetan "illegally recognized" as the
Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama, is well. End Summary.

Ethnic Tibetans 95 Percent of TAR's 2.83 Million Population

--------------------------------------------- --------------

3. (SBU) TAR Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau Deputy
Director Ngapo Jinyuan briefed Consul General October 20 in
Lhasa on the ethnic situation of the TAR. Although the 1959
rebellion and the Cultural Revolution created much chaos in the
region, Ngapo Jinyuan said, people today follow the maxims of
the "Three Inseparables": Han Chinese cannot be separate from
the minority peoples; the minority peoples cannot be separate
from the Han Chinese; and the minorities cannot be separate from
each other.

4. (SBU) Ngapo Jinyuan said that ethnic Tibetans comprise 95
percent of the 2.83 million population of the TAR. The
populations of the Lhopa and Monpa minorities are about 10,000
each. The ethnic regional autonomy system conferred rights on
the peoples of the TAR, and thus the "Tibetans became masters in
their own house in 1959," Ngapo Jinyuan asserted. The TAR was
established in 1965, but the "Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy"
was not passed until 1984. [Comment and Note: This official's
"95 percent ethnic Tibetans" is highly misleading because it
does not include the PLA soldiers and PAP police, the "Help
Tibet" officials from inland China, and the many hundreds of
thousands of migrants ethnic Han migrant workers to the TAR, who
stay for months or years at a time (refs A and B). End

Rebuilt Monasteries


5. (SBU) Since 1979, the Chinese central government has
invested nearly one billion RMB in the reconstruction of temples
and other religious sites, Ngapo Jinyuan explained. Although
much money is still needed for economic development, the
government continues to make large investments in the protection
of religious sites. People are free to practice their religion,
but "illegal" and "separatist" activities are not allowed, he

6. (SBU) As we had heard in meetings with Vice Governor Wu and
with the United Front Department (refs C and D) the right of
people in the TAR to religious freedom was stressed. Ngapo
Jinyuan said that there are four Tibetan Buddhist schools with
1700 religious venues and 46,000 monks and nuns in the TAR.
There are four mosques with 4000 Tibetan Muslims and one
Catholic Church with 700 Tibetan Catholics in the TAR. All
monasteries conduct normal religious activities. Many
monasteries were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but
after 1978, most of them were rebuilt and the celebration of
over 40 religious festivals has resumed.

7. (SBU) The tradition of identifying reincarnated lamas has
been resumed, Ngapo Jinyuan said. The 11th Panchen Lama was

CHENGDU 00000288 002.2 OF 003

indentified around 1992. Since the 1980s, the government has
recognized the identification of 40 reincarnated lamas in the

Process of Applying and Being Approved as a Monk

--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (SBU) In response to a question from CG, Ngapo Jinyuan
explained that if someone wants to become a monk or nun, they
need to get permission from their parents, then communicate
their intention to the county government, and then get
permission from their prospective monastery or nunnery. The
monastery or nunnery will test the candidate and put them on the
religious candidates list for two years. During those two
years, if they respect the rules and regulations of the
Democratic Management Committee (DMC), then the candidate can
become a monk or nun. In principle, the Communist Party of
China gives people the freedom to practice their religion.
However, in practice, some monasteries do not have the economic
and intellectual capacity to accommodate many monks.

9. (SBU) The number of monks in a monastery depends upon how
many monks the monastery can support and train, Ngapo Jinyuan
asserted. The labor of monks is lost to their village, but many
families feel that a monk in the family brings them glory.
Children are not allowed to become a monk or a nun before they
complete their nine years of compulsory education. Formerly,
monks from outside the TAR could study in TAR monasteries
without getting special permission, but now they need the
permission of both their local government, and the TAR
government, in order to do so.

DMCs and Government Working Groups at Monasteries

--------------------------------------------- ----

10. (SBU) In response CG's question, Ngapo Jinyuan said that
the DMC is different from the "government working group." The
DMC is responsible for monastic religious affairs and financial
management. All the monasteries have DMCs, and all of its
members are monks. [Note: At the Gandan Monastery outside of
Lhasa, the DMC director said that the Gandan DMC has 22 members:
eleven monks and eleven government officials. The 11 government
officials do not participate however in some of the decisions
about the internal management of the monastery. End Note.]

11. (SBU) By contrast, the "government working group" is not
stationed at all monasteries, Ngapo Jinyuan explained. These
government working groups have been carrying out patriotic and
legal education in the monasteries since 1994. The "government
working group" doesn't plan to leave the monasteries any time
soon. China is building a society under the rule of law and
therefore the government working group needs to carry out legal
education in the monasteries and nunneries so that monks and
nuns will understand and respect the government's laws, he said.

Response to Question on Dalai Lama-Recognized Panchen Lama

--------------------------------------------- -------------

12. (SBU) In response to CG's question about the whereabouts
and well-being of the Gedun Choekyi Nyima, the Dalai
Lama-recognized Panchen Lama, Ngapo Jinyuan said that he is a
young Tibetan man who was "illegally identified" as the
reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama. The
young man is "growing up very well, loves Chinese culture and is
enjoying his life." The Dalai Lama's illegal recognition of the
Panchen Lama violated a 200-year tradition of central government
recognition of Panchen Lamas, Ngapo Jinyuan asserted.

13. (SBU) In response to CG's questions on religious minorities

CHENGDU 00000288 003.2 OF 003

and arrested monks, Ngapo Jinyuan stated:

-- There are about 400 Tibetan Muslims holding TAR ID cards in
the region. These people were originally from India, Ladakh and
Kashmir. Some of them settled in Gansu, Shanxi or Qinghai
Provinces before coming to the TAR.

-- About 20 people from the TAR make the pilgrimage to Mecca
each year. The TAR government organizes the trip, and reports
the names of the pilgrims to the government of Saudi Arabia.

-- There are no Protestant Christians holding TAR ID cards.
Therefore, there are no plans to open any protestant churches.

-- CG should ask the Justice Bureau about arrested monks. The
TAR Government held a press conference about people who had been
arrested after March 14, so "You can look it up."

-- There has been no change in China's religious policy since
March 14, 2008.

© Scoop Media

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