Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Under new measures, Beijing to legally approve Buddhist teachers in Tibet.

To further tighten the noose around Tibetan monasteries and nunneries, the Chinese government has implemented a new regulation that gives the government and Party organs at multiple levels the authority and power to appoint Buddhist religious instructors. The regulation called “Measures to Determine Qualification and Employment of Religious Instructors in Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries” was published on 3 December 2012 after its approval during the second session of the eighth council of Buddhist Association of China held on 25 November 2012. The new regulation has been implemented from the day of its publication.

Under this regulation, all religious instructors at Tibetan Buddhist monasteries must be legally registered to continue teaching Buddhist scriptures (Article 2). Further the regulation states that to qualify as a religious instructor, a candidate must meet mandatory credentials, including support for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system, patriotism, discipline, uphold the dignity of law, safeguard the people’s interests, safeguard national unity, and uphold religious and social harmony [Article 4 (ii)].

A candidate must not engage in activities organised at the behest of private individuals or overseas outfits [Article 4 (vi)] and must obey the Monastery Management Committees. Monks and nuns as well as lay believers must accept the guidance and supervision of the local people’s government and relevant departments of Buddhist religious affairs [Article 4 (iii)].

Article 5 of the regulation requires that candidates be nominated and recommended by Monastery Management Committees. Then the candidates’ credentials will be assessed and reviewed first at the county level BAC office. This is followed by another assessment and screening at the prefecture level of BAC. Shortlisted candidates must sit for an examination administered by prefectural branch of BAC.

In an interesting exception, Buddhist teachers who are over 50 years old and have been teaching for a considerable time, may be exempted from this examination provided they satisfy all the credentials listed in article 4 [Article 4 (iii)]. This exemption is likely aimed at avoiding potential conflicts in monastic institutions following the firing of senior religious teachers. As TCHRD reported in March 2013, senior religious teachers were removed at Rongwo Monastery and Labrang Tashikyil Monastery located respectively in Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

Religious instructor candidates who pass the examination will have their credentials reviewed and assessed by the province and autonomous region level of the Buddhist Association of China (BAC), an organ of the Communist Party. BAC will then issue a certificate to endorse the qualifications of a religious instructor [Article 4 (iv)].

This regulation affects all monastic institutions in TAR and the Tibetan areas outside TAR. In the areas where there are no BAC branch offices, applications must be made to prefectural or provincial BAC branches [Article 4 (v)].

Article 10 of the regulation stipulates that religious instructs appointment can last no more than five years after which they must apply for renewed employment. Those seeking re-appointment should undergo the same process of getting clearance and approval from the relevant BAC offices and local religious affairs departments.

The duties of religious instructors are listed in the regulation. It says qualified religious instructors should assist the Monastery Management Committees in the management work of education and guidance of monks and nuns, patriotism, unity and progress, maintaining “normal order” in monasteries, promotion of religious harmony and social harmony [Article 11 (iii)]. The religious instructors are also required to promote national policies and regulations to guide the masses of believers, consciously safeguard national unification, ethnic unity and social stability, and oppose separation [Article 11 (iv)].

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