(August 25, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Acting jointly, China's Ministry of Public Security and the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China have tightened up their control over the Buddhist monasteries in the Tibetan areas of China and over the mosques in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. While the tightened supervisory measures over the mosques in Xinjiang have preceded the onset of the holy fasting period of the Muslims, the measures in the Tibetan areas have followed the recent high-profile visit of the Party/Government designated Panchen Lama to Lhasa and other areas in Tibet. A note recorded by me on June 17,2010, on the Panchen Lama's visit to Tibet under the title "Bringing up their Panchen Lama".
2. To discuss the tightening of supervision over the monasteries, the United Front Work Department, which, inter alia, is responsible for organising the periodic talks between the party and senior representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, organised a meeting on August 14 and 15, 2010, at Shigatse. Heads of all Buddhist monasteries in the Tibetan-inhabited provinces were required to attend the meeting. An official of the United Front Work Department has been quoted as saying in connection with the responsibility of his Department to ensure better supervision over the monasteries: "Competent Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns who are politically reliable, extraordinarily learned and widely respected should be selected to monastery management committees through thorough democratic consultation." There has, however, been no reference to the envisaged role of the Panchen Lama in this regard.
3. Subsequently. the Ministry of Public Security held a conference of senior officials of the branches of the Ministry in the Tibetan-inhabited provinces. These branches are called Public Security Bureaus. This was held at Lhasa on August 18 and 19,2010.The objective of this conference was described as "to assess the results and experiences of upholding public security, struggle against the current separatist movement, and identified current challenges facing stability in Tibetan areas.” It was reported by local Chinese officials that the conference discussed future action plans “to step up the fight against separatists; build bodies to protect social security; increase border security; and improve communication infrastructure, uniform and skills of the public security bureaus”. An official of the United Front Work Department briefed the conference on the deliberations of the meeting held by his Department.
4.The tightening of supervision over the Buddhist monasteries by the Party as well as the Government indicates their continuing nervousness over the loyalty of the local monks to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and their reluctance to support the Panchen Lama nominated by the Government and the Party. The Ministry of Public Security and the United Front Work Department were even earlier holding so-called re-education classes for the monks to stress the importance of patriotism and loyalty to the party and the Panchen Lama. Such re-education is likely to be stepped up in the wake of these two conferences.
5. A project for the re-education of the Muslim clerics in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region has simultaneously been undertaken. Its object is to underline the importance of patriotism and party loyalty as in the case of the monks. It has the additional objective of ridding Islam as practised in China of any vestiges of extra-territorial loyalty. Encouraging Islam in Chinese colours is the main objective. This drive has created some resentment among the Muslims because some of the meetings under this drive were held in the premises of local mosques and these were attended by non-Muslim officials and party cadres. While the Buddhist monks have not objected to non-Buddhist functionaries holding party meetings in their places of worship, the Uighur Muslims have strongly resented such practices.
6. Local Uighurs and members of the Uighur diaspora have strongly protested against a meeting organized by the Party’s Peyziwat (population 330,000) County Committee at a village mosque in the Kashgar prefecture on July 24 to hold a speech contest on the topic “Love the Country, Promote the Homeland” in the presence of 35 religious leaders.
7. Mrs.Rebiya Kadeer,President of the Munich-based World Uighur Congress, who lives in the US, has stated in an interview that she was shocked by the pictures of the party meeting held in the mosque.Mr. Abdukadir Asim, an Uighur cleric based in Turkey, has said: “It is a common principle among all religions that the privacy of the place of worship is fundamental. It is a strange and abhorrent event that communist propaganda was conducted in a mosque. I don’t believe it has ever happened before, anywhere else in the world.” He has criticized the General Secretary of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mr.Ekmelledin Ihsanoglu, who visited China recently for not raising with the Chinese authorities the question of the violation of the religious rights of the Uighurs in China. He added:“The action of holding a communist activity in a mosque ridicules not only Uighurs but also the whole Islamic world. The international community should speak out about this event.”
8. Addressing a meeting of Muslim clerics at Hetian in Xinjiang on August 21, Mr. Jia Qinglin , Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), called for greater efforts by local religious circles to contribute to the long-term stability and development of Xinjiang. He praised the contribution of patriotic religious personalities and claimed that the Government and the party attached great importance to the education and cultivation of religious believers, showed care for their lives and work, and supported their religious activities. He appealed to the clerics to help consolidate national unity and harmonious religious relations and to resist and eliminate the influence of religious extremism.
9. Simultaneously with action to tighten control over the mosques, the Government has initiated a programme for the demolition of exclusively Uighur residential areas in Urumqi, the capital, and forcing the displaced Uighurs to re-settle in apartments built for them in the residential areas of the Han Chinese. This has also been resented by the leaders of the Uighur community who look upon it as an attempt to destroy the ethnic identity of the Uighurs. In this connection, please see my article dated June 23, 2010, titled “China to De-Emphasise Uighur Identity of Xinjiang”.
10. There is considerable unhappiness among the Uighurs of Xinjiang over the fact that the Islamic world, which never misses an opportunity to protest over the violation of the human rights of the Muslims in other countries, remains silent on this issue in China.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )