In its fourth annual report released today in Brussels, the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance has ranked China among the worst violators of freedom of religion worldwide, noting specific concerns regarding the oppression of Uyghur and Tibetan religious practitioners.
The report assesses the state of religious freedom in 34 countries and suggests ways in which the EU could be more effective in promoting the protection of this right. The report labels the situation in China as “severe violations”—the worst rank in the study—and calls on the EU to push China “to ensure that policies used to oppress minorities are reversed and that international human rights law is respected.”
In a more detailed analysis submitted as an annex to the report, researchers note the “severe restrictions” for Tibetan Buddhists in China, including outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR): “They are not free to venerate the Dalai Lama openly, to proselytize in public or meet in unregistered places of worship.” The destruction of the Buddhist Institute of Larung Gar is rightly described as a sign of “Beijing’s desire to eviscerate the teaching and study of Tibetan Buddhism.” The document also refers to the International Campaign for Tibet’s 2016 report on China’s counter-terrorism law, which warns that the law could be used to further restrict expressions of Tibetan identity and culture.
“ICT welcomes this report, which is a confirmation of China’s disrespect for the right of Tibetan Buddhists to practice their religion peacefully and highlights the urgent need for Chinese leadership to drastically change the way they handle Tibetan culture and religion,” said ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten.
The report was presented during a conference in the European Parliament and discussed by a range of experts and religious community representatives. Among them was the EU Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union Ján Figel, who mentioned the importance of interreligious dialogue and education, two notions dear to the Dalai Lama.