Illustrated White Paper on Democratic Reform in Tibet-Abolishment of Theocracy and Protection of Religious Freedom

China Human Rights Net > News > Focus > Illustrated White Paper on Democratic Reform in Tibet > II. Momentous Democratic Reform in Tibet

Abolishment of Theocracy and Protection of Religious Freedom


China's government Monday published a white paper on the situation in Tibet before and since1959 to mark the 50th anniversary of the region's Democratic Reform. The paper, released by the State Council Information Office, reviewed the profound changes that have taken place in the past 50 years. It also shed light on the laws governing the social development of Tibet, and attempts to rebut lies and rumors it alleges were spread by the 14th Dalai Lama and his hard-core supporters.



When democratic reform of Tibetan monasteries concluded in January 1961, Tibet had 553 monasteries and more than 7,000 lamas to meet the religious needs of the local people. Each monastery set up an elected, democratically administrated management committee. The picture shows Zhang Jingwu, central government representative and Party secretary of the Tibet Work Committee, talking with lamas in a Shannan monastery.


Abolishing theocracy, separating religion from state, and protecting religious freedom. During the democratic reform, means of production, including land and livestock, originally owned by monasteries involved in the armed rebellion were all confiscated, while a policy of redemption was introduced with regard to the means of production of monasteries which had not participated in the rebellion. During the democratic reform, on the one hand, citizens' freedom of religious belief, and patriotic and law-abiding monasteries were protected by the law. Citizens have the freedom to become a monk or nun and monks and nuns can choose to resume secular life, regular religious activities as well as historical monasteries and cultural relics were all protected. On the other hand, a policy of "political unity, freedom of religious belief and separation of politics and religion" was adopted, abolishing monasteries' feudal privileges in economy and politics, re-pealing monasteries' feudal occupation and exploitation, and personal slavery, as well as feudal management and hierarchy inside the monasteries, and ensuring that all religious beliefs were politically equal. Public funds and properties inside the monasteries were managed democratically, serving as production funds and for supporting monks and nuns as well as regular religious activities; the monasteries' management committees uniformly administered the land distributed to monks and nuns in accordance with their labor ability, and managed production. When the income of a monastery was unable to cover its regular expenses, the government would grant a subsidy. Through the democratic reform, all the monasteries in Tibet elected their own management committees, and conducted democratic management. The democratic reform enabled the true features of religion to emerge, effectively safeguarded the Tibetan people's freedom of religious belief, and laid a foundation for the introduction of the political system of people's democracy in Tibet.



Lamas of the Sera Monastery gather to celebrate the success of democratic reform.



After the democratic reform a number of monasteries of historical and cultural significance were put under state or regional protection, and underwent repairs. In the photo is a 600-year-old pagoda in Gyangze.


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