China Begins 3-Year Campaign
To Eradicate Tibetan Religion
BEIJING (Agence France Presse) - China has launched a three-year propaganda campaign aimed at stamping out religion in Tibet and ending support for the Dalai Lama (pictured) living in exile, the Tibet Information Network (TIN) said Saturday.
The campaign, launched in Lhasa on Jan. 8 and broadcast on Tibet Television on Jan. 10, promotes atheism as the only way to economic development and stability.
"It is an important measure to strengthen the struggle against separatists, to resolutely resist the Dalai clique's reactionary infiltration and to help peasants and herdsmen free themselves from the negative influence of religion," TIN quoted Tibet television as saying.
Chinese troops "liberated" Tibet in 1951, but are still fighting a battle to control the hearts and minds of many Tibetans who remain loyal to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, despite lengthy campaigns to discredit him.
"The campaign to encourage the spread of atheism is further evidence of the authorities' concerns over the private loyalties of Tibetan cadres and their failure to eradicate Tibetans' support for the Dalai Lama," TIN said in a statement received here.
"It represents a strengthening of the anti-Dalai Lama campaign in Tibet and is aimed not only at Tibetan cadres but also at ordinary members of society," it added.
The new campaign was not reported in Tibetan newspapers available in Beijing and officials in the mountainous region were unavailable for comment.
However, a speech by Raidi, deputy party secretary in Tibet on Nov. 15 also called for new efforts to reduce religion in Tibet.
"As communists, we cannot hold that all is well because we merely announce that we are atheists. Instead we need to make bold propaganda about Marxist atheism, insisting on indoctrinating the peasant and herdsman masses on the Marxist stand on religion," he was quoted as saying by TIN.
In early January, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy documented a long list of rights abuses in the Himalayan region that threaten "both the cultural and physical survival of the Tibetan people."
"The human rights situation in Tibet has continued to deteriorate over the last three years," said Lobsang Nyandak, executive director of the monitoring group based in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, which is the home in exile of the Dalai Lama.
"Every year, political prisoners are being tortured and killed by the Chinese authorities and the world must help us to stop these inhuman acts," Nyandak said.
The center's annual report put the number of political prisoners in Tibet at 1,083 as of December 1998, including 246 women. (c) 1998 Agence France Presse