Parents of students in the Tibetan capital Lhasa have been ordered to keep their children away from any religious activities during winter vacation, the third year in a row such restrictions have been imposed, International Campaign for Tibet said.
The ICT said that a Dec. 31, 2019 directive sent by Lhasa Chengguan Haicheng Elementary School contained guidelines on winter break school tasks and projects, healthcare and forbidden behavior, including religious activities.
“Students are not allowed to participate in any form of religious activity during the break, and in principle long-distance travel with students is not allowed,” read the final of seven points in the order.
“In the event of an accident, all consequences are the responsibility of the parents,” it said.
The winter break runs about two months from Dec 31.
“By banning schoolchildren from religious activities, Chinese authorities are infringing upon basic principles of freedom of religion, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights–which China agreed to—and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which China ratified in 1992,” the ICT said in a statement.
“A state simply cannot ban children from religious activities.”
Dolma Kyab, a Tibetan legal scholar based in Colorado, told RFA’s Tibetan Service that the ban on religious activities during winter break is aimed at preventing Tibetan children from exposure to new ideas.
“The Chinese restriction on Tibetan school children from visiting temples and engaging in outside activities during winter vacation is nothing new. It started several years back in Xinjiang and then spread to the Tibet Autonomous Region, where the restriction started in 2018,” he said in an interview.
“The local government and Tibetan Department of Education oversees and implements such bans on students for fear of exposure to different perspectives that may affect and endanger the students’ impressionable minds,” Dolma Kyab added.
The directive also urged parents to uphold the “Four Forbiddens” – ice-skating on rivers, entering internet cafes and other entertainment venues, carrying knives or other dangerous items, and going out alone, ICT said.
This winter’s ban in Lhasa continues a trend of restrictions announced during previous summer and winter vacations in 2018 and 2019 and reported elsewhere in Tibet.
In May 2018, Chinese authorities in Tibet’s Chamdo city ordered Tibetan students and their parents to avoid religious gatherings and festivals during the Buddhist holy month of Saga Dawa, threatening them with unspecified punishments if they were caught ignoring the ban, RFA previously reported.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Paul Eckert.