Tibetan online religious groups banned in Qinghai

Latest action is another example of China’s ‘pervasive control of religion,’ source says.
By Chakmo Tso
Tibetan online religious groups banned in Qinghai A Tibetan Buddhist monk steps out of a prayer hall at Kumbum monastery in Qinghai in a file photo.

Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province are banning Tibetan social media groups tied to religion, warning group members they will be investigated and jailed if they continue to use them, sources say.

The order will take effect March 1, according to a Jan. 20 announcement by a provincial official, a Tibetan living in the region told RFA this week.

“All online coordinating of religious activities and related events will be banned,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “Anyone found violating this order will be investigated and punished,” the source added.

Many social media groups have been created inside Tibet to coordinate religious activities online and to share information about pilgrimages, holidays or special observances where the lives of captive birds or fish are spared and they are released back into the wild, the source said.

“But religious events and ceremonies performed or discussed on social media groups will now be banned completely, and online activities by the groups will be constantly monitored,” he said.

However, religious activities conducted inside the monasteries will be allowed to continue as before, the source said.

“In China, most religious activities performed online are carried on by Tibetans, so this crackdown is just another example of the Chinese government’s pervasive control of religion,” said Kunga Tashi, a New York-based analyst of Chinese and Tibetan affairs.

The new policy to restrict religious activity online in Qinghai follows recent campaigns forcing the expulsion of young Tibetan monks from their monasteries and the destruction in nomad areas of prayer flags and other traditional symbols of religious faith.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago.

Tibetans living in Tibet and in Tibetan areas of western Chinese provinces say they are subject to political, economic and religious discrimination as well as human rights abuses. Some fear Beijing is now pursuing ever more aggressive policies aimed at eradicating their national and cultural identity.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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