Schoolchildren in the traditionally Buddhist region of Tibet are prohibited from practicing religious activities during the summer holidays, Chinese state media declared on Monday.
According to the Global Times, school authorities told pupils that they must not participate in religious activities during the summer holidays to “separate education from religious influences,” forcing students to sign an agreement promising not to do so.
“We have sent notices to both students and their parents, and have had students sign an agreement that they will not take part in any form of religious activity during the summer vacation,” said Choephel, the head of the political education department at Lhasa Middle School.
Choephel explained, “The school reiterates the regulation every time in class meetings and parent-teacher meetings, not only before a vacation,” adding, “The regulation was established under a guideline sent to primary and middle schools by Tibet’s education department.”
As noted by the South China Morning Post, “China claims Tibet has been part of its territory for more than seven centuries and regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist.” Although the province remains heavily Buddhist, Chinese authorities have in recent years launched a crackdown against all religious practice and have repeatedly clashed with the Dalai Lama whom they regard as a corrupt influence on Beijing’s communist teachings.
In recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has introduced legislation designed to crack down on freedom of religion and exercise total religious control. The country’s Education Law states, “No organization or individual may make use of religion to conduct activities that interfere with the educational system of the State.”
Similar cases of religious repression have taken place across the country. In May, officials in China’s northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region forced Islamic students to sign a pledge to refrain from fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan.
In April, the government published a white paper on religious freedom insisting that all “religions in China must be Chinese” and that all the country’s religious leaders must “practice core socialist values, carry forward the fine traditions of the Chinese nation, and actively explore religious thought which conforms to the reality in China.”
A U.S. State Department report last year claimed that China’s religious regulations were intended primarily to “annihilate underground [religious] communities” and “suffocate official [religious] communities” in a bid to impose their own atheist communist ideology.