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In its 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom, the U.S. Department of State noted that China has taken some positive "rhetorical steps to promote religious activity within the framework of state-sanctioned Patriotic Religious Associations," and that there is increased space for some unregistered religious groups to worship. Nonetheless, China’s repression of religious freedom continued, including in Tibetan areas.
When it comes to freedom of religion in China, there are a range of issues and troubling developments that need to be discussed, said Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner during a press conference to introduce this year's report. One is the treatment of Buddhist religious leaders in Tibet.
According to the Report, Chinese government officials often associated Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan areas with pro-independence activism. The Chinese Government has attempted to regulate the operations of major monasteries through Democratic Management Committees composed of monastic leaders who follow directions from local religious affairs bureaus.
"Government control over religious practice and the day-to-day management of monasteries and other religious institutions continued to be extraordinarily tight," states the Report. Furthermore, it notes that "'patriotic education' campaigns in monasteries continued, requiring monks and nuns to sign statements personally denouncing the Dalai Lama and to study communist political texts and propaganda praising the Chinese government's management of religious affairs."
Monks and nuns that were found to be "politically unqualified," or those who refused to denounce the Dalai Lama, faced expulsion from their monasteries and nunneries. According to the report, some monks fled their monasteries to avoid complying.
The United States continues to be concerned for the preservation of the Tibetan people's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage and protection of their basic human rights. We encourage the government of China to strengthen legal protections for religious freedom, and to and allow people of various faiths to practice their beliefs according to their conscience.