Peking curtails worship in Tibet

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The Chinese authorities are to ban new monasteries or temples in Tibet and intend to "fix" the number of monks and nuns, according to an official government publication.

"At present the number of monasteries, monks and nuns in our region are sufficient to fulfil the needs of the daily religious practice of the masses. We must be cautious and patient about this matter and should never let it [religion] spread unchecked," said a directive published in the Tibet Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet.

The article was published on 25 November, the day a United Nations human rights delegation arrived in Tibet, but only reached the London-based Tibet Information Network this week.

The official directive lists seven "obvious problems" which need to be "solved". It said: "There are monasteries which have been opened without permission from the authorities, and there is too much religious activity." Religion, it adds, has "actually interfered with people's produ ctivity and with their daily life". Worse still, "a few Party members were quite enthusiastic about participating in religious activities".

The authorities are concerned about the separatist movement in Tibet, and the directive alleges that "a number of religious institutions have been used by a few counter-revolutionaries to plot against us and have become counter-revolutionary bases". It adds: "We must expose the way the Dalai [Lama] is using religion as a pretext for his political purposes."

On paper, the Chinese constitution guarantees religious freedom. But the directive gives an insight into the realities in Tibet. "At present we must enhance the administration of the monasteries and of the monks and nuns by means of the law... We must fix

the number of monks and nuns in the monasteries...We must teach Tibetan Buddhism about self-reform and to adapt to the socialist system," it states.

During the visit of the UN mission, led by Abdelfattah Amor, a Tunisian jurist, monks were banned from the main temple area, according to the Tibet Information Network. Ten days after the team left, four monks were arrested for staging a demonstration

linked to the visit. Tibetan sources said they were unable to submit information to the delegation because of Chinese security forces.

Meanwhile, in further evidence of Peking's toughened stance towards political activists, a secret blacklist has come to light naming 49 dissidents living abroad who are banned from returning to China. The list, obtained by Human Rights Watch/ Asia, confirms that high-profile activists are allowed to leave the country, but then find themselves in involuntary exile.

The list contains the names of all the student leaders of the 1989 pro-democracy movement who escaped to the West.

"Category One persons" should be "immediately detained, investigated and dealt with by law" if they try to re- enter China. A number of activists have been caught by the policy of "no return". In November 1994, the poet Bei Dao was interrogated by policeon his arrival at Peking airport and sent back to the US 12 hours later.