Friday, September 21, 2007

State Dept Report on Religious Freedom in Tibet, 2007


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

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China provides for freedom of religious belief, although it limits protection of the exercise of religious belief to activities which the Government defines as "normal." The Government's 2005 White Paper on "Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China" 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." However, the Government maintained tight controls on religious practices and places of worship. Although the authorities permitted many traditional religious practices and public manifestations of belief, they promptly and forcibly suppressed activities they viewed as vehicles for political dissent or advocacy of Tibetan independence, such as religious activities venerating the Dalai Lama (which the Government described as "splittist").

Overall, during the period of the report the level of repression remained high, and the Government's record of respect for religious freedom remained poor; however, the atmosphere for religious freedom varied from region to region. Conditions were generally more relaxed in Tibetan autonomous areas outside the region, with the exception of parts of Sichuan's Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. A sixth round of discussions between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Chinese Government officials began June 29. The Dalai Lama's envoys made previous visits to China for discussions in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006 and in 2005 met with Government officials in Switzerland. Although the Government has refused to engage in direct discussions with the Dalai Lama, it continued to assert that the door to dialogue and negotiation was open, provided that the Dalai Lama publicly affirmed that Tibet and Taiwan were inseparable parts of China.

Although in the past there were reports of the deaths of monks and nuns due to maltreatment in prison, there were no known reports of deaths due to maltreatment in prison during the period covered by this report. Buddhist nun Kelsang Namtso was shot and killed at the Nangpa La pass on September 30, 2006, by Chinese border guards as she and a group of 70 Tibetans attempted to cross into Nepal. Buddhist leaders such as Gendun Choekyi Nyima and Tenzin Delek remained in detention or prison, and central figures in Tibetan Buddhism such as the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa Lama remained in exile. Dozens of monks and nuns continued to serve prison terms for their resistance to "patriotic" or political education. The Government refused free access to Tibetan areas for international observers, tightly controlled observers who were granted access, and tightly controlled publication of information about conditions in the region. These restrictions made it impossible to determine accurately the scope of religious freedom violations.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Diplomats and nongovernmental organizations NGOs advocated for international access to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, whom the overwhelming majority of Tibetan Buddhists continued to recognize as the Panchen Lama, and urged the Chinese Government to pursue dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives.

The U.S. Government continued to encourage greater religious freedom by urging the Government and local authorities to respect religious freedom and preserve religious traditions. The U.S. Government protested credible reports of religious persecution and discrimination, discussed specific cases with the authorities, and requested further information about specific incidents.

Section I. Religious Demography

The Tibetan areas of China have an area of 871,649 square miles. According to the 2000 census, the Tibetan population of those areas was 5.4 million; the Tibetan population within the TAR was 2.4 million, while in autonomous prefectures and counties outside the TAR the Tibetan population was 2.9 million. Most practiced Tibetan Buddhism, although a sizeable minority also practiced traditional Bon religion. This held true for many Tibetan government officials and Communist Party members. Other residents of Tibetan areas who were religious believers included Han Chinese, who practiced Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, and traditional folk religions; Hui Muslims; Tibetan Muslims; and Christians. There are four mosques in the TAR with approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Muslim adherents, as well as a Catholic church with 560 parishioners, which is located in the traditionally Catholic community of Yanjing in the eastern TAR. There were a small number of Falun Gong adherents in the TAR.

The number of monks and nuns in the TAR fluctuated significantly in the late 1990s due to continuing enforcement of the "patriotic education campaign" and expulsion from monasteries and nunneries of many monks and nuns who refused to denounce the Dalai Lama or who were found to be "politically unqualified." Since 1996, the Government has reported that there are 46,000 monks and nuns and 1,700 religious sites in the TAR, but this figure has likely varied over time due to continued politically motivated detentions as well as monastic secularization and commercialization caused by tourism. The Government figure of 46,000 monks and nuns represented only the TAR, where the number of monks and nuns was very strictly controlled. According to statistics collected by the China Center for Tibetan Studies, a government research institution, there were 1,535 monasteries in Tibetan areas outside the TAR. Informed observers estimated that a total of 60,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns lived in Tibetan areas outside the TAR.

There are some unregistered Protestant churches or "house churches" in the TAR.

Missionaries were present.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China provides for freedom of religious belief and the freedom not to believe; however, the Government sought to restrict religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship and to control the growth and scope of the activity of religious groups. The Government remained wary of Tibetan Buddhism in general and its links to the Dalai Lama, and it maintained tight controls on religious practices and places of worship in Tibetan areas. Although authorities permitted many traditional religious practices and public manifestations of belief, they promptly and forcibly suppressed any activities which they viewed as vehicles for political dissent. This included religious activities that officials perceived as supporting the Dalai Lama or Tibetan independence.

According to Chinese news reports, Zhang Qingli, the Secretary of the Communist Party in the TAR, announced his intention to intensify strict political control over Buddhist practice at a meeting of Communist party officials in mid 2006. According to the reports, Zhang referred to a life or death struggle against the Dalai Lama and his "clique," and referred to them as the "biggest obstacle hindering Tibetan Buddhism from establishing normal order."

TAR officials in September 2006 released the "Implementation Regulations on the Religious Affairs Regulations." The 56-article regulation took effect on January 1, 2007. The new regulations cover management of religious groups, religious venues, and religious personnel. According to Chinese media reports, the regulation will play an important role in resisting the "Dalai Clique's separatist activities." The 2007 Regulations supersede the 1991 regulations on religion in the TAR. The 2007 Regulations increase the Government's control over the movement of nuns and monks by requiring that they seek permission from county level officials to travel to another county. The previous regulations only required monks and nuns to seek travel permission if they were visiting another province.

According to the educational practices of Tibetan Buddhism, monks and nuns must travel to receive specialized training from teachers who are considered experts in their particular theological traditions. The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) has reported that monks and nuns who reach India claim that their main reason for choosing to leave Tibet, even temporarily, is to continue their studies, which they are unable to do inside Tibet, and to obtain a blessing from the Dalai Lama. According to Article 13 of the new regulations, religious organizations must petition the Government's religious affairs department in order to build religious structures. If individuals build a religious structure without authorization, the religious affairs department may demolish the structure.

In April 2007 the official website of the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture reported that during Kardze's Tenth Five-Year Plan the prefecture government will make proposal and approval procedures for new building, relocation, or expansion of religious venues more strict. According to the website, monastic construction carried out without official approval will be stopped. The prefecture government will further strengthen management of monks and nuns exiting and entering the prefecture. In addition, the Government will further strengthen "antiseparatist work in religious circles."

The Government had the right to disapprove any individual's application to take up religious orders. In practice many monks study and worship within their monasteries without being "registered" or obtaining an official monastic identification card issued by religious affairs authorities. Authorities curtailed the traditional practice of sending young boys to monasteries for religious training by means of regulations that forbade monasteries from accepting individuals under the age of 18. Nevertheless, some monasteries continued to admit younger boys, often delaying their formal registration until the age of 18. In two different monasteries outside the TAR, the number of unregistered young monks rose into the thousands.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government officials closely associated Buddhist monasteries with proindependence activism in Tibetan areas of China. Spiritual leaders encountered difficulty reestablishing historical monasteries due to lack of funds, general limitations on monastic education, and denials of government permission to build and operate religious institutions, which officials in some areas contended were a drain on local resources and a conduit for political infiltration by the Tibetan exile community. While some monasteries destroyed during the Cultural Revolution have been rebuilt or repaired, many have not and others remained only partially repaired. The Government stated that funding restoration efforts was done to support the practice of religion, but it also was done in part to promote the development of tourism in Tibetan areas. Most recent restoration efforts were funded privately, although a few religious sites also were receiving government support for reconstruction projects at the end of the period covered by this report.

The Government stated that there were no limits on the number of monks in major monasteries and that each monastery's Democratic Management Committee (DMC) decided independently how many monks the monastery could support. Many of these committees were government-controlled, and in practice the Government imposed strict limits on the number of monks in major monasteries, particularly in the TAR.

The Government continued to oversee the daily operations of major monasteries. The Government, which did not contribute to the monasteries' operating funds, retained management control of monasteries through the DMCs and local religious affairs bureaus. Regulations restricted leadership of many DMCs to "patriotic and devoted" monks and nuns and specified that the Government must approve all members of the committees. At some monasteries, government officials were members of the committees.

The quality and availability of high-level religious teachers in the TAR and other Tibetan areas remained inadequate; many teachers were in exile, older teachers were not being replaced, and those remaining in Tibetan areas outside the TAR had difficulty securing permission to teach in the TAR. In recent years, DMCs at several large monasteries began to use funds generated by the sales of entrance tickets or donated by pilgrims for purposes other than the support of monks engaged in full-time religious study. As a result, some "scholar monks" who had formerly been fully supported had to engage in income-generating activities. Some experts were concerned that, as a result, fewer monks would be qualified to serve as teachers in the future. While local government officials' attempts to attract tourists to religious sites provided some monasteries with extra income, they also deflected time and energy from religious instruction. In July 2004 authorities permitted resumption of the Geshe Lharampa examinations, the highest religious examination in the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddism, at Lhasa's Jokhang Temple for the first time in 16 years. The exam has new political content that is unrelated to the test's historical religious content. According to officials in the TAR, seven monks in the TAR passed the Geshe Lharampa exam in 2006. The Great Prayer Festival, or Monlam Chenmo, traditionally closely associated with the Geshe exam process, has been banned each year since 1988. Foreign academics reported that some monasteries still forbid monks from taking the Geshe Lharampa exams. Practically, it is also difficult for monks to receive the level of instruction necessary to even take the Geshe Lharampa exam. Monks who wished to sit the exam traditionally traveled to the TAR to study at monasteries such as Sera and Drepung monasteries. However, movement of monks from one monastery to another for study is now extremely difficult, especially for monks from outside the TAR who wish to study at monasteries inside the TAR.

Official Chinese-language press reports emphasized the importance and strengthening of monastic patriotic education. Reports also stated political education was necessary for the whole society to be vigilant towards combating "splittism" and the influence of the "Dalai Clique." The primary responsibility for conducting monastic political education remained with monastery leaders, and the form, content, and frequency of training at each monastery appeared to vary widely; however, conducting such training remained a requirement and is a routine part of monastic management. In some monasteries outside the TAR, political education sessions were held infrequently.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 2,405 Tibetans arrived at the Tibet Reception Center (TRC) in Nepal in 2006, compared with 3,395 in 2005. During the year departures were higher than arrivals, with 2,946 Tibetans departing the TRC for India. This was due to a backlog of Tibetans being able to depart for India at the end of 2005.

Many Tibetans, particularly those from rural areas both inside and outside the TAR, continued to report difficulties obtaining passports. The application process was not transparent, and residents of different Tibetan areas reported obstacles ranging from bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption to denials based on the applicant's political activities or religious beliefs. Due in part to the difficulties faced by many Tibetans in obtaining passports, and in part to the difficulty many Chinese citizens of Tibetan ethnicity encountered obtaining entry visas for India, it was difficult for Tibetans to travel to India for religious purposes. Nevertheless, thousands of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, visited India via third countries. The number of Tibetans who returned to China after temporary stays in India is unknown.

The Government placed restrictions on the movement of Tibetans during sensitive anniversaries and events and increased controls over border areas at these times. In December 2006 the TAR Government announced a stepped-up "anti-illegal border crossing campaign" targeting Tibetans seeking to go to India through Nepal. There were reports that Tibetans trying to cross the border illegally were detained for several months, although in most cases no formal charges were brought. There were also reports of the torture of persons, particularly monks, returning from Nepal and India and reports that government officials asked family members for bribes in exchange for the release of returnees. In September 2006 a 17 year-old nun was fatally shot by Chinese border guards while she was attempting to cross into Nepal with an estimated 70 other Tibetans at the Nangpa La Pass. Approximately half of the group, which included a number of children, was taken into custody, while at least 43 made it to Nepal. The Government reported the release of those taken into custody a few months later. Returned exiles reported that authorities pressured them not to discuss issues that the Government characterized as politically sensitive, such as the Dalai Lama.

The Karmapa, leader of Tibetan Buddhism's Karma Kagyu sect and one of the most influential religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism, remained in exile following his 1999 flight to India. The Karmapa stated that he fled because of the Government's controls on his movements and its refusal either to allow him to go to India to be trained by his spiritual mentors or to allow his teachers to come to him. Visitors to Tsurphu Monastery, the seat of the Karmapa, noted that the population of monks remained small and the atmosphere was subdued.

The Government routinely asserted control over the process of identifying and educating reincarnated lamas. For example, the Government authorities closely supervised the current Reting Rinpoche, who is eight years old, and his education differed significantly from that of his predecessors.

The Government also strictly restricted contacts between reincarnate lamas and the outside world. For example, young incarnate lama Pawo Rinpoche, who was recognized by the Karmapa in 1994, lived under government supervision at Nenang Monastery. Foreign delegations have been refused permission to visit him.

Government officials maintained that possessing or displaying pictures of the Dalai Lama was not illegal and that most TAR residents chose not to display his picture. Nevertheless, authorities appeared to view possession of such photos as evidence of separatist sentiment when detaining individuals on political charges. Article 34 of the 2007 "TAR Measures for Implementation of the 'Regulations for Religious Affairs'" states that "religious personnel and religious citizens may not distribute books, pictures, or other materials which harm the unity of the nationalities or endanger state security." Photos or books of the Dalai Lama fall into this category. Pictures of the Dalai Lama were not openly displayed in major monasteries and could not be purchased openly in the TAR. In Tibetan areas outside the TAR, visitors to several monasteries saw pictures of the Dalai Lama openly displayed. Amnesty International reports that a former monk, Sonam Gyalpo, was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment in mid-2006 for "endangering state security" after videos of the Dalai Lama were found in his house.

The Government continued to ban pictures of Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the man recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama. Photos of the "official" Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, were not publicly displayed in most places, most likely because most Tibetans refuse to recognize him as the Panchen Lama.

Many Tibetan Buddhist religious figures held positions in local People's Congresses and committees of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which do not require Communist Party membership. Some religious figures accepted political positions in order to protect their monasteries, and some Tibetan officials openly practiced Buddhism. The Government continued to insist, however, that Communist Party members and senior employees adhere to the Party's code of atheism, and routine political training for cadres continued to denigrate religious belief and promote atheism. Government officials confirmed that some Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) officers were members of the Communist Party and that religious belief was incompatible with Party membership.

Security was intensified during the Dalai Lama's birthday, sensitive anniversaries, and festival days in the TAR and in some other Tibetan areas. The prohibition on celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday on July 6 continued. In December 2006 the government banned participation of government cadres, workers and students in the Ganden Ngamcho festival. In March 2007 authorities in Lhasa heightened security in major monasteries in order to control gatherings celebrating the long life of the Dalai Lama. The Government reportedly altered traditional dates of Tibetan festivals such as the Drepunb Shodon Festival. Some government employees were told that they would lose their jobs or have their wages reduced if they disobeyed this order. According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Lhasa City school children were prohibited from participating in religious activities during the holy month of Saka Dawa, which takes place in the fourth month of the Lunar calendar.

Travel restrictions for foreign visitors to and within the TAR were reported during the period covered by this report and the Government tightly controlled visits by foreign officials to religious sites in the TAR.

Some foreign religious workers were expelled from the TAR during the reporting period.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

The Government strictly controlled access to and information about Tibetan areas, particularly the TAR, and it was difficult to determine accurately the scope of religious freedom violations. There were reports that the atmosphere for lay religious practice in Tibetan areas was more restrictive than in the recent past. The Government's record of respect for religious freedom remained poor during the period covered by this report.

The Panchen Lama is Tibetan Buddhism's second most prominent figure, after the Dalai Lama. The Government continued to refuse to allow access to Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the man recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in 1995 (when he was six years old). Government officials claimed he was under government supervision, at an undisclosed location, for his own protection and attends classes as a "normal schoolboy." All requests from the international community for access to him to confirm his well-being have been refused. Nyima turned 18 on April 25, 2007. The Government continued to insist that Gyaltsen Norbu, seventeen, the boy it selected in 1995, was the Panchen Lama's eleventh reincarnation.

The Government did not provide any information on Lama Chadrel Rinpoche, who was reportedly still under house arrest near Lhasa for leaking information about the selection of the Panchen Lama.

Officials did not provide any new information on Champa Chung, former assistant of Chadrel Rinpoche who was reportedly still held in custody since the expiration of his prison term in 1999.

Limited access to information about prisoners and prisons made it difficult to ascertain the number of Tibetan prisoners of conscience or to assess the extent and severity of abuses. According to the Congressional Executive Commission on China Political Prisoner Database (CECC PPD), as of April 2007 there were 99 Tibetan prisoners of conscience, 76 of whom were monks and nuns. The CECC reported that the number of prisoners of conscience declined to less than one-fifth the number 10 years ago.

Approximately 46 prisoners of conscience remained in prison in Lhasa, most serving sentences on the charge of "counterrevolution," which was dropped from the criminal law in 1997. Authorities have stated that acts previously prosecuted as counterrevolutionary crimes continue to be considered crimes under state security laws.

In January 2007 Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported the arrest of Penpa, a village leader from Dhingri County near Shigatse in the TAR. Chinese police were reported to have searched Penpa's home and found materials relating to the 2005 Kalachakara teachings of the Dalai Lama. In March 2007, the Tibet Information Network (TIN) reported that Penpa was sentenced in February to serve 3 years in Nyari Prison in Shigatse. The charges against Penpa were unknown.

In May 2007 the head of the large Dungkyab Monastery in Qinghai was forced to step down after he refused to sign a document condemning the Dalai Lama. According to a Radio Free Asia report, Khenpo Tsanor would not sign a government document which stated that the Dalai Lama should be criticized and his "splittist" behavior condemned, even though Tsanor knew he might be killed or imprisoned.

Destruction of monastic residences and expulsion of monks and nuns continued at Yachen Monastery in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province.

In May 2007, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported that a number of restrictions were imposed on religious observance of Saka Dawa, the birth of the Buddha, celebrated on April 15. TCHRD reported that the Lhasa City Committee ordered children not visit monasteries, circumambulate, or wear amulet thread during Saka Dawa. The Committee threatened the children with expulsion from school.

The Lhasa Governor's office and the Lhasa City Party Secretary prohibited Party members, civil servants and staff from participating in or even observing the activities of the Ganden Ngamcho anniversary. Party members were threatened with demotions and salary cuts if they did not comply with the order. Small farmers were also reportedly banned from selling incense and juniper leaves for religious purposes on religious days.

During Saka Dawa in April 2007, the Chinese People's Armed Police (PAP) destroyed a statue of Guru Padmasambava (known as Guru Rinpoche) at Samye Monastery. The rubble from the statue was reportedly being transferred to an unknown location. After the destruction of the statue, the PAP reportedly surrounded the monastery. The statue was built with private donations of 800 thousand yuan from Chinese Buddhists. An official at the monastery referred to the new religious affairs regulations which state that a new religious structure cannot be built without official consent.

Chinese border guards shot and killed Buddhist nun Kelsang Namtso at the Nangpa La Pass between Tibet and Nepal on September 30, 2006. She was with a group of 70 Tibetans who were attempting to cross into Nepal. The Government said that the Tibetans were illegal border crossers. Forty-three Tibetans from the group are known to have arrived safely in exile, however, at least 25 others, including a number of young children, were taken into custody by the PAP. A professional Romanian cameraman and climber who happened to be in the area at the time was able to film the incident which clearly showed the Tibetans where not armed and were fired on from the back.

In June 2006 authorities in Sichuan's Kardze Prefecture initiated a political reeducation campaign for children at the Kardze Tibetan Middle School following a call by the Dalai Lama for Tibetans to stop wearing animal skins in their traditional clothing. Soldiers in uniform entered the school and said that Tibetans were not permitted to wear animal skins. They reportedly asked students whether they supported the Dalai Lama. Those who said they did not were encouraged to trample a picture of the Dalai Lama. A 16-year old girl named Yiwang was detained and was still being held without charge as of April 2007.

In June 2006 RFA reported that authorities detained five Tibetans, including two Buddhist nuns from Kardze Prefecture, for allegedly handing out leaflets promoting Tibetan independence. In Lhasa, Yiga, a nun, and two other women, Sonam Choetso and Jampa Yangtso, were reportedly detained on the first day of the Saka Dawa religious period on May 28, 2006. Kayi Doega and Sonam Lhamo, a nun, were reportedly detained in Kardze Prefecture on June 1 and June 2, 2006 respectively, on suspicion of organizing the leafleting.

On August 15, 2006, police in Kardze County detained Lobsang Paldan, a 22-year-old monk from Kardze Monastery. He was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. The charges were unknown. Seven other monks from Kardze Monastery whose names were unknown were also arrested in August 2006 and were still in prison at the end of the reporting period.

According to a report by Radio Free Asia (RFA), on August 23, 2006, security officials arrested Jinpa, a reincarnate lama and the abbot of Choktsang Taklung Monastery in Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Jinpa was reportedly arrested on suspicion of involvement in displaying proindependence posters at the monastery.

In late 2006 the Government released Nun Yonten Drolma, also known as Yonten Tsomo, from prison. She was detained with two other Tibetan nuns and two monks for distributing letters calling for Tibetan independence.

At the end of 2006, the Government also released monks Tashi Gyaltsen, Tsultrim Phelgyal, Tsesum Samten, and Lobsang Thargyal from Treldzong. They were from Dakar Treldzong Monastery in Qinghai Province and were arrested in 2005 for publishing politically sensitive poems. Jhamphel Gyatso, a monk who was arrested with them, is still detained and is serving a 4- to 5-year sentence. The charges are unknown.

Prison authorities continued to subject imprisoned monks and nuns to torture.

After her release to the United States in March 2006 on medical parole, Tibetan Buddhist nun Phuntsog Nyidrol reported that she was tortured by government authorities. Phuntsog Nyidrol also stated that religious prisoners are not allowed to meet with other religious prisoners, use their religious names in prison, or recite prayers in prison. Phuntsog Nyidrol also stated that prison administrators deny family visits to religious prisoners as punishment.

There was no new information on Gendun, a Tibetan monk and teacher of traditional monastic dance from Yulung Monastery in Qinghai. In April 2006 TIN reported that Gendun had been sentenced in January 2006 to 4 years in prison after he gave talks about Tibetan culture and history. The charges against him were unknown.

Lhasa orphanage owners Bangri Chogtrul Rinpoche (Jigme Tenzin Nyima) and Nyima Choedron were convicted in 2002 of "espionage and endangering state security." In March 2006 Bangri Chogrul's life sentence was commuted to a fixed term of 19 years, due to be completed in 2021. Nyima Choedron was released early on February 26, 2006.

In early October 2005 Ngawang Jangchub, a 28-year-old Tibetan monk, was found dead in his room at the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. According to reports, Ngawang Jangchub's death followed a heated dispute with the monastery's "work team" over his refusal to denounce the Dalai Lama. Government officials claimed Ngawang Jangchub's death was due to natural causes.

According to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), authorities arrested five monks who refused to take part in patriotic education that began in October 2005 at the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. The monks, who were identified as Ngawang Namdrol, Ngawang Nyingpo, Ngawang Thupten, Ngawang Phelgey, and Phuntsok Thupwang, reportedly refused to denounce the Dalai Lama and recognize Tibet as part of China. TAR officials said that the monks were not detained but rather expelled from the monastery. The officials acknowledged that hundreds of monks gathered to petition for their return.

A number of former political prisoners and other suspected activists were reportedly detained in the period prior to the 40th anniversary of the founding of the TAR on September 1, 2005. According to Human Rights Watch, Sonam, a monk from the Potala Palace, was detained by security forces in August 2005. In September 2005, another monk, Sonam Gyalpo, was arrested on charges of separating the country and destroying national unity.

In mid-2005 Tibetan Buddhist monks Dzokar and Topden and layman Lobsang Tsering from Sichuan's Kardze Prefecture were released after serving a portion of a 3-year jail term for putting up proindependence posters.

In March 2005 the World Tibet Network News (WTN) reported that local authorities extended Tibetan Buddhist monk Jigme Gyatso's prison sentence for alleged "political activities" from 15 to 17 years.

In January 2005 the Government commuted the death sentence of Tenzin Delek to life in prison. In 2002 Tenzin Delek, a prominent lama from Kardze, was arrested for his alleged connection with a series of bombings in Sichuan Province. On January 26, 2003, Tenzin Delek and his associate, Lobsang Dondrub, were sentenced to death for their alleged role in the bombings. The Government executed Lobsang Dondrub the same day despite reportedly giving assurances to senior diplomatic officials that both accused would be afforded due process and that their sentences would be reviewed by the national-level Supreme People's Court. Tenzin Delek was being held in Tuandong Prison in Sichuan Province.

The status of Phutnsok Tsering in Magar Dhargyeling Monastery in the TAR, who was arrested in 2005, for possessing a portrait of the Dalai Lama and writings on Tibetan nationalism, remained unknown.

There was no new information on the whereabouts of the two Tibetan nuns and two Tibetan monks who were detained along with Yonten Drolma (who was released in late 2006). According to the London-based Free Tibet Campaign, authorities in Gansu Province arrested the group in May 2005 for distributing letters at a local monastery, market, and other areas calling for Tibetan independence. The Congressional Executive Commission on China Political Prisoner Database (CECC PPD) also listed monk Sherab as being detained as part of this group.

The whereabouts of monk Jigme Dasang from Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai who was detained in June 2005 were still unknown.

The Government did not provide any new information on the report that police in Qinghai's Golog Prefecture shot and killed Tibetan Buddhist religious leader Shetsul in October 2004 after he and other monks demanded police pay for medical treatment for injuries suffered while in custody.

The status of the following persons remained unconfirmed at the end of the reporting period: two monks from Sichuan's Kardze Prefecture who were arrested in 2004 for displaying the Tibetan national flag and Choeden Rinzen, who was arrested in 2004 for possessing a Tibetan national flag and a picture of the Dalai Lama.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism. While there was some friction between Tibetan Buddhists and the growing Muslim Hui population in cities of the Tibetan areas, it was attributable more to economic competition and cultural differences than to religious tensions.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu made a concerted effort to encourage greater religious freedom in Tibetan areas, using focused external pressure regarding abuses. In regular exchanges, including with religious affairs officials, U.S. diplomatic personnel consistently urged both the Government and local authorities to respect religious freedom in Tibetan areas.

Embassy and consulate officials protested and sought further information on cases whenever there were credible reports of religious persecution or discrimination. In 2006, officials asked for and were denied a meeting in Lhasa with Chadrel Rinpoche, reportedly under house arrest since 2002.

U.S. diplomatic personnel stationed in the country maintained contacts with a wide range of religious leaders and practitioners in the Tibetan areas, and they traveled regularly to the TAR and other Tibetan areas to monitor the status of religious freedom. The ability of U.S. diplomatic personnel to travel freely and talk to people at ease while in the area was extremely limited. Not all requests to travel to Tibetan areas were granted.

U.S. development and exchange programs aim to strengthen Tibetan communities in China and preserve their environmental and cultural heritage. Both are inextricably linked to Tibet's Buddhist religious tradition. In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a tradition of designating mountains, forests, and other physical spaces as being endowed with some spiritual significance. Monasteries have traditionally played a major role in managing the local habitat around them as a result. The Dalai Lama has also strongly encouraged Tibetans to be good stewards of the environment. The U.S. diplomatic mission in China has also promoted religious dialogue through its exchange visitor program, which financed the travel of several prominent scholars of traditional Tibetan culture and religion to the United States.

Released on September 14, 2007

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