Home Page
Introduction
Internet Course
Issue Statements
UPR Reviews & Follow-up
WUNRN-Womens's UN Report Network
SOROBAS – Separation of Religion
or Belief and State
1986 - Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief
2012 - The Tandem Project Fellowship
Now is the Time

 

 
 

TIBET & FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

MANY FAITHS, ONE TRUTH

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama recently wrote a New York Times Op-Ed article on his new book “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions can Come Together.” The article Many Faiths, One Truth, speaks of the “tensions that are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures , peoples and religions become ever more entwined.” The Dali Lama concluded his article by saying, “mutual understanding is not merely the business of religious believers – it is a matter for the welfare of humanity as a whole.” In other words, the entire human family believers and unbelievers, not only those of religious faith as stated in the first preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the ongoing tension between China and Tibet this is easier said than done.

In March 1982 the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party issued “Document 19: The Basic Viewpoint on the Religious Question during our Country’s Socialist Period.” The policy declares the country is atheist, but calls for limited freedom of religion in the People’s Republic of China. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution: “no one may make use of religions to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the state educational system.” The traditional Tibetan Buddhist religion has been compromised in numerous ways by Document 19 of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

In 1998, the fifty year commemoration of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was held in Norway organized by an Oslo Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) and a Chinese representative of an approved religion were invited to attend. Norwegian Buddhists outside the conference hall picketed their attendance. Ironically, in 2000, two years later, a new Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief, launched and housed in the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights as a result of the Oslo Conference, created the Oslo Coalition China Project and with a Norwegian Buddhist as Chair sent a delegation to China in a return visit to SARA and other Chinese government offices. From this exchange has come a ten year history of interfaith, inter-belief dialogue between believers and unbelievers that exist today for inter-active model for inclusive and genuine dialogue under the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. In April 2010 the book: Freedom of Religion in China: Norwegian Experiences from the Human Rights Dialogue was launched and in 2010 a Norwegian delegation from the China Project will visit Beijing and Yumman to maintain and strengthen the Oslo Coalition dialogue with state religious authorities (attachment).  

The China Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held by the United Nations Human Rights Council in its fourth session on 9 February 2009. The Tandem Project Follow-up – China Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief calls for ways to implement Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) International Human Rights Law on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the 1981 UN Declaration (attachment). China has signed but not ratified the ICCPR and is not therefore legally-binding to obligations and responsibilities under Article 18 of the ICCPR.  The Tandem Project calls for an Exchange of Information with China and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, TAR, and with other Tibetan organizations and foundations outside the country (attachment). 


Preface - The First Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Surely one of the best hopes for humankind is to embrace a culture in which religions and other beliefs accept one another, in which wars and violence are not tolerated in the name of an exclusive right to truth, in which children are raised to solve conflicts with mediation, compassion and understanding.

There is an increase in dialogue today between religions and other beliefs to embrace diversity, but few persons, less than one percent of any population, ever participate. This is a challenge. The value of such dialogues is proportionate to the level of participation. For civil society increased participation would create opportunities for education on inclusive and genuine approaches to human rights and freedom of religion or belief. 

 In 1968 the United Nations deferred passage of a legally-binding convention on religious intolerance saying it was too complicated and sensitive. Instead, they adopted a non-binding declaration on the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief. While very worthwhile, the declaration does not carry the force and commitment of a legally-binding international human rights convention on freedom of religion or belief.

Religions and other beliefs historically have been used to justify wars and settle disputes. This is more dangerous today as the possible misuse of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction increases. Governments need to revisit whether religions and other beliefs trump human rights or human rights trump religions and other beliefs or neither trumps the other; whether culture trumps the universal or universal rights sensitively and with respect trumps culture in the face of this historical truth.


Review:  Many Faiths, One Truth, by Tenzin Gyatso, Op-Ed page, New York Times, Tuesday May 25, 2001. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.

Excerpt:  Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith. Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions. Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one. Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.

Review: The Universal Periodic Review of China was held from 9:00 – 12:00 on Monday 9 February 2009 on the Live OHCHR Web cast. . Click on the link to access reports for the China Universal Periodic Review: National Report; Compilation prepared by OHCHR; Summary prepared by OHCHR; Interactive Dialogue; Comments & Answers; Final Remarks (China – Universal Periodic Review and Freedom of Religion or Belief). : http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/CNSession4.aspx

Excerpt: The China National Report:  “China respects the principle of the universality of human rights and considers that all countries have an obligation to adopt measures continuously to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and the relevant provisions of international human rights instruments, and in the light of their national realities. The international community should respect the principle of the indivisibility of human rights and attach equal importance to civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development. Given differences in political systems, levels of development and historical and cultural backgrounds, it is natural for countries to have different views on the question of human rights. It is therefore important that countries engage in dialogue and cooperation based on equality and mutual respect in their common endeavour to promote and protect human rights.”

Review: U.S. State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report; TAR/Tibet. Link to full U.S. State Department report and Tibet Autonomous Region see:  Source: US State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report; China: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127268.htm.

Excerpt: The U.S. government encouraged the PRC Government and local authorities to respect religious freedom and preserve religious traditions. U.S. diplomatic personnel visited the TAR twice during the reporting period. TAR officials repeatedly denied U.S. diplomatic personnel’s requests to visit Tibetan regions, limiting the ability of U.S. diplomatic personnel to travel freely and talk openly with persons in Tibetan areas. The U.S. government protested credible reports of religious persecution and discrimination, discussed individual cases with the authorities, and requested further information about specific incidents. The U.S. government continued to urge the PRC Government to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives and to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to their impact on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods.


THE TANDEM PROJECT
http://www.tandemproject.com.
info@tandemproject.com
UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State

CHINA

Fourth Session U.N. Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (2-13 February, 2009)
The Universal Periodic Review of China was held from 9:00 – 12:00 on Monday 9 February 2009 on the Live OHCHR Web cast. . Click on the links below to access reports for the China Universal Periodic Review: National Report; Compilation prepared by OHCHR; Summary prepared by OHCHR; Interactive Dialogue; Comments & Answers; Final Remarks. 

Live HRC Web Cast: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/CNSession4.aspx
http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=090209

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all UN Member States by 2011. Click for an Introduction to the Universal Periodic Review, Process and News:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/BasicFacts.aspx

General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/9a30112c27d1167cc12563ed004d8f15?Opendocument

The 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief http://www.tandemproject.com/program/81_dec.htm.

THE TANDEM PROJECT FOLLOW-UP

The Tandem Project Follow-up builds on twenty-seven Community Strategies, action proposals by organizations in 1986 to implement Article 18 of the CCPR and the 1981 UN Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief: http://www.tandemproject.com/tolerance.pdf

These Community Strategies are consolidated for The Tandem Project Follow-up into three generic proposals on integration, dialogue and education for Universal Periodic Reviews and exchange of information worldwide with organizations on international, national and local levels. 

1. Develop model integrated approaches to International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief at national and local levels to test the reality of implementation as appropriate to the constitutions, legal systems and cultures of each country.

2. Use International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief as appropriate to each culture and venue for inclusive and genuine dialogue on freedom of religion or belief.   

3. Apply International Human Rights Standards on Freedom of Religion or Belief in education curricula as appropriate in all grade levels, teaching children, from the very beginning, that their own religion is one out of many and it is a personal choice for everyone to adhere to the religion or belief by which he or she feels most inspired, or to adhere to no religion or belief at all.

RECOMMENDATIONS

These recommendations should be read with the China UPR National Report, Working Group Report, Inter-active Dialogues and Stakeholder letters to understand human rights and realpolitick in China today. Many of the delegations in the China Universal Periodic Review Inter-active Dialogue and the Report of the Working Group on China (paragraphs 26-118, pages 6-31) call for ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). 

The Tandem Project Follow-up recommendations focus on implementation of Article 18 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the 1981 UN Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief at international, national and local levels. These two human rights instruments are indivisible and inter-related with all others under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Consideration should be given by China for dialogues between Chinese religions or beliefs, Chinese Communist Party and religions or beliefs outside of China to include all theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief, as defined by General Comment 22 on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

 In March 1982 the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party issued “Document 19: The Basic Viewpoint on the Religious Question during our Country’s Socialist Period.” The policy declares the country is atheist, but calls for limited freedom of religion in the People’s Republic of China. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution: “no one may make use of religions to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the state educational system.” 

China in its National Report says they have a Scientific Outlook on Development and are “committed to engaging in exchanges and cooperation with other countries.”

FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

TIBET

Source: US State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report; China: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127268.htm

Introduction: For complete report on Tibet open attached China - Universal Periodic Review & Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The United States recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures (TAPs), counties, and townships in other provinces, as part of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The U.S. Department of State follows these designations in its reporting. The United States continues to be concerned for the preservation and development of the Tibetan people's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage and the protection of their fundamental human rights.

The Constitution of the PRC provides for freedom of religion but limits protection of the exercise of religious belief to activities the Government defines as "normal." The Government's 2005 White Paper on Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities states, "Organs of self-government in autonomous areas, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and relevant laws, respect and guarantee the freedom of religious belief of ethnic minorities and safeguard all legal and normal religious activities of people of ethnic minorities." Organs of self-government are governments of autonomous regions, prefectures, and counties.

During the reporting period, the level of religious repression in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained high, especially around major religious holidays and sensitive anniversaries. Government control over religious practice and the day-to-day management of monasteries and other religious institutions continued to be extraordinarily tight due to continued fallout from the March 2008 outbreak of widespread unrest in Tibetan regions.

The Government continued to conduct "patriotic education" campaigns in monasteries, requiring monks and nuns to sign statements personally denouncing the Dalai Lama and to study communist political texts and propaganda praising the Chinese government's management of religious affairs. Noncompliant monks and nuns faced expulsion from their monasteries. Many monks and some abbots fled their monasteries to avoid complying.

The patriotic education campaigns and other restrictions on religious freedom were major factors leading monks and nuns from a number of monasteries to mount initially peaceful protests in Lhasa on March 10, 2008. On March 14 and 15, the protests and security response devolved into rioting by Tibetans and a violent police crackdown in Lhasa. Official state media reported the detentions of 4,434 persons in Tibetan areas (1,315 in Lhasa) between March and April 2008, although some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) placed the number at more than 6,500. Many of these individuals were monks or nuns. The overall number of monks and nuns in the monasteries declined in the weeks and months following the protests and remained at lower levels than pre-March 2008. The government continued to criticize the Dalai Lama harshly in public, including through news outlets.

During the reporting period, Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns experienced difficulty traveling and hotels frequently denied them registration. They were also subject to extraordinary police checks and arbitrary searches. Such discriminatory treatment was particularly severe in large cities, including Beijing and Chengdu, before and during the 2008 Olympic Games. Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as lay Tibetans, continued to report difficulties obtaining passports from their local public security bureaus, a situation some have attributed in part to an official effort to hinder travel to Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama resides. The Government increased personnel on the Tibet-Nepal border after the protests, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that fewer Tibetans arrived at the Tibet Reception Center in Nepal during the reporting period than in prior years.

The U.S. government encouraged the PRC Government and local authorities to respect religious freedom and preserve religious traditions. U.S. diplomatic personnel visited the TAR twice during the reporting period. TAR officials repeatedly denied U.S. diplomatic personnel’s requests to visit Tibetan regions, limiting the ability of U.S. diplomatic personnel to travel freely and talk openly with persons in Tibetan areas. The U.S. government protested credible reports of religious persecution and discrimination, discussed individual cases with the authorities, and requested further information about specific incidents. The U.S. government continued to urge the PRC Government to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives and to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to their impact on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods.

Source: US State Department 2009 International Religious Freedom Report; Chinahttp://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127268.htm

Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.

The Tandem Project is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference materials and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion - and 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.