CHINA & OLYMPICS--WHAT I WROTE IN THE PAST
China in Hu's Colours--Part III
By B. Raman
In a despatch on October 21, 2007, the State-owned Hsinhua news agency of China reported as follows: "For the first time in its history, the Communist Party of China (CPC) has mentioned the word "religion" in an amendment to its Constitution, adopted on Sunday (October 21, 2007) at the closing session of the 17th CPC National Congress. To insert CPC's guiding principles and policies in religious work in the Party Constitution is conducive to their full implementation, according to a resolution on the amendment to the Constitution. It said the insertion has been made to meet the demands posed by the new situation and new tasks. The CPC has been widely known as atheistic since its founding in 1921."
2. The actual text of the amendment has not been available so far. However, a resolution on the amendments passed by the Congress at its concluding session stated as follows: "The Congress holds that incorporating into the Constitution the principles and policies the Party has formulated for guiding efforts to strengthen the armed forces as well as the work related to ethnic and religious affairs, the united front and foreign affairs in light of the new circumstances and tasks is conducive to fully implementing these principles and policies and getting better results in the work in these areas."
3. In the past, the reference used to be to "the work related to ethnic affairs". The Tibetans and the Uighurs were treated as ethnic communities and not as distinct religious communities. The Catholics and the Protestants were not treated as distinct religious communities. They were identified with whatever ethnic group to which they belonged. Does the present reference to "ethnic and religious affairs" presage their being treated as not only ethnic groups, but also distinct religious groups? It would be difficult to answer this question till more details become available.
4. The Chinese project every concept or idea as having unique Chinese characteristics. Thus, they have "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and "democracy with Chinese characteristics". Similarly, they have religious freedom too with Chinese characteristics, though they do not openly use that expression. One could give the following examples of the Chinese characteristics of religious freedom:
The Buddhists have the freedom of worship in their places of worship, but they cannot project the Dalai Lama as their leader or possess his picture. Nor can they speak of their faith in reincarnation. They have to accept the Panchen Lama chosen by the Communist Party. When the Dalai Lama dies, they have to similarly accept the Dalai Lama chosen by the Party. Reports from Sikkim say that local trans-border traders have complained of harassment by the Chinese police in Tibetan territory for possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama.
The Catholics and the Protestants similarly have the freedom of worship in their churches, but the Catholics cannot project the Pope as the head of the Catholic church or possess his picture. The Chinese look upon the Dalai Lama and the Pope as political and not religious figures.
The Muslims too have the freedom of worship in their mosques, but they cannot have madrasas to impart religious education to their children. There are also restrictions on how they worship in order to prevent large gatherings at the time of worship. To talk of jihad even in the benign sense (the inner struggle to make oneself a better Muslim) is a crime.
5. The apparent decision of the Congress to give a de jure recognition to religion in the Party Constitution has come in the wake of continuous pressure from the West---particularly the US--- on the Chinese Government to grant full religious freedom to those Chinese who believe in religion. The decision has also been motivated by the desire to improve the image of China as it nears next year's Beijing Olympics. To improve its visage, China has been using a lot of cosmetics and religious freedom is one of them.
6. The pre-Olympics angle is evident from the report on this amendment carried by the Chinese media. To quote from a despatch of the Hsinhua news agency: "The CPC is atheistic but allows freedom of religious beliefs. China is home to 100 million religious faithful, largely Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Catholics and Islamites. "The Party's secret in handling well China's religious issues lies in its principles and policies," said Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs. "Their insertion in the Party Constitution shows the Party is sincere, and capable, of its implementation of policies on the freedom of religious beliefs." He said religious problems are reported in many parts of the world. "But in China we enjoy peace and quiet because we have the established policies and principles." With the new elaboration on religious work, Ye said the Party is determined to enhance the active role of the religious circle and faithful in boosting social and economic development. Hao Peng, vice Party chief in Tibet, described the relations between the Party and the religious faithful as "united, cooperative and mutually respectful". The CPC's tenet of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, featuring prosperity, democracy, cultural advancement and harmony, reflect the common aspirations of Tibet's religious faithful, said Zhukang Tubdankezhub, president of the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association of China. As the host country of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, China has pledged to offer religious services for foreigners arriving for the Games. "A large number of religious faithful will be arriving for the Games," Ye Xiaowen told reporters at a news conference on the sidelines of the 17th Party congress. He said China is working on religious facilities at its Olympic venues with the help of the International Olympic Committee and referring to the practices at previous Games. "Our religious services will be up to previous standards." Ye also dismissed allegations that China restricted the printing and sale of Bibles, which he said receive state subsidies and other preferential policies. China, with 16 million Protestant Christians, has printed 42 million Bibles, he said. "
7. In an article under the title "God As A Threat To National Security" written by me on July 11, 2002, which is available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers5/paper492.html, I had stated as follows: "The Chinese people have reasons to be grateful to their leadership, which has given them increasing prosperity and a well-run administration. People definitely have more money in their pockets now than in the past and than the people of India have in theirs. Despite this, why are they attracted to God? Why this feeling of emptiness inside them despite a bulging money purse? Why more and more people seek solace in religion and spirituality, even at the risk of falling foul of the establishment? These are questions which continue to confuse and haunt the Chinese leadership, which is not able to find an answer to them. The way they monitor religious and spiritual activities, one gets the impression as if they feel that God is a major threat to their national security. The pragmatic and far-sighted Chinese leadership has handled the economy with aplomb. The chances of political instability due to economic causes are low. One wishes the leadership develops an equal understanding of the force of religion and spirituality. If one day there is serious instability in China and if its society comes unstuck, it will, most probably, be not due to political, economic or social causes, but due to the State continuing to come in the way of the religious and spiritual yearnings of the people. "
8. Mr. Hu's China may no longer see, to the same extent as in the past, God as a major threat to national security, but they continue to see the Dalai Lama as a major threat to their national security and to the smooth holding of the Olympics. Their concerns have increased after the high-profile treatment accorded to His Holiness during his current tour of the US. Their concerns have also increased after seeing the recent massive demonstrations by the Buddhist monks in Myanmar in support of democracy. They are worried over the possibility of the monks of Tibet emulating those of Myanmar. That is why they have been nudging the Myanmar Junta to make overtures to the pro-democracy activists in order to keep the monks off the streets. Remember how the huge demonstrations in Bulgaria, Romania and other Communist countries of East Europe in the late 1980s spread like an European flu? They don't want the Myanmar flu to spread to Tibet.
9. On the eve of the Congress, the Chinese authorities further stepped up their campaign to denigrate His Holiness. They have been projecting the Dalai Lama not as a respected Buddhist leader, but as the leader of an evil sect comparable to the Aum Shinrikiyo of Japan and the Falun Gong of China. They accuse all the three of being evil birds of the same feather. Annexed is an article on the Dalai Lama, which was carried by the "People's Daily" on October 9, 2007. To be continued
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
ANNEXURE ARTICLE ON THE DALAI LAMA CARRIED BY THE "PEOPLE'S DAILY" OF OCTOBER 9, 2007
Xinhua was authorized on Tuesday to release a signed article by Shi Shan on the relationship between the 14th Dalai Lama, Aum Shinrikyo cult and Falun Gong. The full text of the article is as follows:
The world has seen rapid development in the scientific civilization of mankind, but the malignant tumor of evil cults is still rampant, plunging innocent people into the depths of suffering. Evil cults such as the Solar Temple Cult of the United States, the Falun Gong of China and the Movement of the Restoration of God's Ten Commandments of Uganda wantonly preach the fallacy of "the End of the World", destroy social stability and jeopardize the lives and property of the public. Such perverse acts have aroused strong indignation of the people and governments of various countries. Many countries have staged a fight against evil cults by enacting legislation and setting up special agencies.
Buddhist doctrine advocates good deeds and extrication from the earthly weal and woe. It has also long been viewing evil cults as the "feud of Buddha" and maintaining that "Buddha and demons do not coexist with each other". The 14th Dalai Lama, who boasts to be a "follower of Buddhism" and "human rights fighter", however not only has no hatred toward evil cults but instead shows a great deal of compassion for them. Isn't it worth pondering the reasons behind this? Let's first start with the Aum Shinrikyo cult of Japan. The cult leader Shoko Asahara claimed that it was "the 14th Dalai Lama who personally led him into the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism" and that he could shorten the time needed for one to become a Buddha from 2,000-3,000 years to just 10 years, urging people to ditch the ascetic practices advocated by Buddhism and follow his sect tenets to merrily achieve longevity and even to become a Buddha. The 14th Dalai Lama kept writing certificates or letters of recommendation for Shoko Asahara to the authorities of Tokyo, hailing Shoko Asahara as "a very capable religious teacher" and hoping the authorities would "allow the Aum Shinrikyo Sect to be exempted from tax payments and propagandize its credo. The German weekly Focus reported that without the support of the 14th Dalai Lama, it would have been absolutely impossible for Shoko Asahara to build up his sect empire and, within a short period of very few years, gain status as a cult leader in Japan. In other words, it is the 14th Dalai Lama's all-out "support" that turned Shoko Asahara, a swindler and a mountebank, into "a religious teacher".
It was because of the 14th Dalai Lama who persistently supported and trumpeted Shoko Asahara that the Aum Shinrikyo cult could acquire the privilege of "tax exemption" and accumulated funds to bankroll his cruel evil doing against the Japanese people. In the Spring of 1995, Shoko Asahara organized a terrorist attack by discharging poisonous gas in Tokyo's subway, killing 12 people and injuring 5,000 others. The event sparked indignation from the Japanese people. In October of the same year, Shoko Asahara and his die-hard followers stood public trial in a local court of Tokyo and were punished in line with laws.
Even at this moment, the 14th Dalai Lama who claimed to be a "human rights fighter" still spoke plausibly to the Kyodo News Service that Shoko Asahara remained his friend and that he still thought what the Aum Shinrikyo cult preached was in accordance with Buddhist doctrines. It was the support and connivance of the 14th Dalai Lama who took the foe for his friend that made Asahara feel secure in the knowledge that he had strong backing. The evil cult continued to do evils under the guise of constantly-changed names and leaders. Eventually in 1999, the Japanese Senate completed the legislative procedures against evil cults including the Aum Shinrikyo. The Tokyo authorities also took a number of measures to crack down on the leaders of the evil cult.
Why would the 14th Dalai Lama openly violate the teachings of Sakyamuni that urge his followers to get rid of demons and uphold truth and laws to favor Aum Shinrikyo? Why would he flout the tenets of Buddhism urging the masses not to do evils but to do good deeds? The 14th Dalai Lama had confessed in a letter to the cult, appreciating the Aum Shinrikyo Sect for its "generous donation to our Buddhist collective in exile". Aha, it turned out to be that the "leader" even bartered away the sacred tenet of Buddhism as a cheap bargaining chip in money deals.
It is the 14th Dalai Lama's own deeds that have step by step betrayed his real intentions and political ambitions put under the guise of Buddhism and peace. A weekly newspaper in Manila commented it was a pity that the 14th Dalai Lama wore the cassock of a Lama but played political tricks, spoke of the pursuit of freedom through peaceful means but harbored in mind the vain attempt of restoring the past feudal rule of Lamaism. Even catholic senator P. Santorum of the United States couldn't help exclaiming that such conduct reflected a subdued religious sentiment. He held that to establish a society respecting life, cracking down upon crimes and promoting dignity of mankind, efforts must be made to prevent religion from being individualized. It appears that many people of insight across the world have recognized the tricks of the 14th Dalai Lama in using Tibetan Buddhism to engage in political activities and have stayed on high alert to and repulsed the deed of the Dalai Lama.
Let's now have a look at the 14th Dalai Lama's attitude toward China's evil cult Falun Gong. Cult leader Li Hongzhi of Falun Gong took religion as pretence, trampled upon religious doctrines and thus invited indignation, reprimands and stern objections from the religious circles. They said that Li Hongzhi had blasphemed Buddhism by fabricating his birthday from July 1952 to May 13, 1951, the date on which Sakyamuni was believed to be born. His attempt to pass himself as the reincarnation of Sakyamuni and his bragging about getting true knowledge from Sakyamuni and thus being more powerful than Sakyamuni was "an extreme blasphemy to Buddhism", they said. However, even such an evil cult leader who is denounced by many people and had to flee abroad to escape the punishment of laws secured compassion and admiration from the 14th Dalai Lama. The latter first dispatched his representative to comfort Li Hongzhi and then sent over his representatives to conspire with Li and staged various farces at the time when the 56th World Human Rights Conference was held in Geneva, stopping at nothing to spread lies and rumors and to trumpet anti-China bills.
As one Chinese saying goes: Birds of a feather flock together. The real reasons for the collusion of the 14th Dalai Lama and Li Hongzhi are their shared situation. They are both in exile after their illegal acts to subvert the Chinese government and the Chinese people ended in constant failures under the august Chinese Constitution and laws; Shared nature--They are both not resigned to failures and attempt to hoodwink and manipulate their few domestic followers to carry on making turbulence and to hold back the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation; Shared intention--They are both hostile to their motherland and regard the 1.3 million Chinese as enemies, dreaming a pipe dream of returning to China, with the support of their masters, to materialize their evil objective of splitting China. Imagine the 14th Dalai Lama, the self-proclaimed "religious leader", even condescended to associate with Li Hongzhi who has been labeled by the United International World Buddhism Association Headquarters as a preacher of evil cult and a swindler! This obviously reflects that the 14th Dalai Lama has cornered himself into a dead end!