China steps up 'training' of Tibetan clergy, officials

BEIJING — Chinese authorities are ramping up political indoctrination among Tibetan Buddhist clergy and officials in charge of religious affairs as part of a campaign to strengthen the ruling Communist Party's grip on religion.

A Tibet government website reported this week that 35 officials traveled to the eastern city of Suzhou last month for "training" in China's policies on Tibet, ethnic and religious theories and diplomacy.

An unidentified number of monks and nuns also underwent three days of training in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, ending on June 2. As facilitators who pass on instruction in government policies, they were told to be "reliable in politics and take a clear-cut and firm stance," the website Tibet.cn reported.

The clergy and officials under the party's United Front Work Department responsible for religious affairs were from the Tibet Autonomous Region and ethnically Tibetan areas of Yunnan province.

Such indoctrination, along with compulsory political study in monasteries, aims to reduce the appeal of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, as well as build loyalty to the officially atheistic party.

"It is important for United Front Work officials to improve their ability first, especially in regions such as Tibetan areas where the Dalai Lama clique intends to penetrate," Zhu Weiqun, former chairman of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the legislature's advisory body, was quoted as saying by the party newspaper Global Times.

Other religious groups have also come under increased pressure in recent months, with Christian churches destroyed and hundreds of thousands of Muslims held in re-education centers where they are forced to denounce Islamic beliefs and traditional culture.

Events have also been organized nationwide among religious communities to study the newly amended constitution that scrapped term limits for President Xi Jinping, who recently launched a campaign to study the works of Karl Marx.

According to the Global Times, party school professors, police and judges have been invited to symposiums and lectures at Buddhist temples to study the constitution since March.

Based on a Tibet.cn report on May 23, promotional campaigns have reached over 500,000 people in Tibet since March this year.

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This story has been corrected to show that training for clergy was held in Lhasa, not Suzhou.

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