A Tibetan view of the Vatican's agreement with China

Beijing's broken promises and human rights abuses do not give rise to optimism
A Tibetan view of the Vatican's agreement with China

This picture taken on Feb. 28, 2018 shows Tibetan Buddhist monks as they unveil a giant thangka painting for Monlam, otherwise known as the Great Prayer Festival of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, at the Gartse Monastery in Guashize, Tongren County on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. (Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Sang Jieja
China
October 15, 2018

After years of negotiations, the Vatican and China finally announced in late September that a consensus had been reached on the appointment of Chinese bishops and the two sides signed a provisional agreement.

As a Tibetan bystander, I wasn't optimistic about the agreement. I have been subjected to violations by the Chinese government for more than 60 years.

Catholics in China have been divided between the state-sanctioned church and the underground church that is loyal to the Vatican.

Now, Pope Francis says that he has the final decision on the appointment of bishops, not Beijing. The pope recognized eight illegal bishops appointed by China and admitted the agreement would be painful for Catholics who had suffered.

The Vatican may think that the agreement will be a success as it will make it possible for China to accept the pope as the leader of the Chinese Catholic Church and he can give Chinese Catholics more guidance.

But let us look at the results of the 67-year-old agreement between Tibet and the Chinese government before we become too optimistic.

On May 23, 1951, the Tibetan and the Chinese governments signed the "17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet", in which it states: "The central government will not change the current political system in Tibet and the inherent status and authority of the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan officials at all levels serve as usual."

It also promises to: "Respect the religious beliefs and customs of the Tibetan people and protect the Lama Temple."

In fact, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) never complied with the agreement. The Chinese army arrived in Lhasa and soon tore up the document and forced the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government into exile in India.

Another example is the "Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law" relating to Tibet, which in theory gave ethnic minorities the right to self-administration. But did the CCP respect this law? The sheer number of Tibetan protests, including the 152 protesters who set themselves on fire, gives us a chilling answer.

The Chinese government has also signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide; and the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

Has the CCP government complied with any of these conventions? China's poor human rights record tells us "no."

The Chinese government does not even comply with its own laws or constitution.

Ironically, the agreement with the Vatican reflects the CCP's violation of Article 36 of its constitution, which stipulates that "citizens of the People's Republic of China have freedom of religious belief" and "religious groups and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign influences".

This begs the question of whether the Sino-Vatican agreement is truly possible?

The agreement means the Chinese government would have to abandon its principle, and the Chinese side is very clear about the results of the abandonment.

Judging from the above, the so-called commitment of the Chinese government is only for political expediency, and the latest agreement will be torn up once its aims are reached.

The essence of the autocratic Chinese Communist government determines that religion is only a tool to consolidate its rule. Moreover, true religion has no space under the rule of the Communist Party of China — the Tibetans are convinced of this.

Since the Chinese Communist regime came to power, it has continued to suppress all kinds of religions.

For Tibetan Buddhism, they razed temples, expelled thousands of monks, set up party organizations in monasteries and Buddhist colleges for managing reincarnation.

For Christianity, hundreds of churches and thousands of crosses were demolished, the faithful were expelled and the Catholic underground church was suppressed.

For Islam, millions of Uyghurs were placed in re-education camps.

After Chinese President Xi Jinping took office, he intensified crack downs on religious circles, forced Tibetan Buddhism to "adapt to socialism", and enforced "a new interpretation of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism".

When the CCP is capable of all evil, it casts doubts on their reasons for signing the agreement with the Vatican.

As the Chinese government severely suppresses all the religions, it is difficult to conceive that China will treat Catholic communities and its believers well.

The tolerance, compassion, and love of the Vatican needs to face the hegemony of the CPP, which is based on the Thick Black Theory — thick face and black heart — and kills people without shame and cruelly.

Over the years, people have hoped that the Vatican's contacts with the Chinese government can improve the situation of the Chinese Catholics, and that the Chinese government will improve its policies on all religions. However, from Xi Jinping's recent handling of religious incidents, that hope is becoming more and more of a dream.

Tibet is occupied by the Chinese government, which of course is not comparable to the Vatican's situation. However, the religious policy imposed on Tibet after China's occupation can be instructive and the Vatican must be cautious.

As Kung Lap Yan, associate professor of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: "No matter how much the Catholic Church earns in this matter, it will be lost in the end."

Sign up to receive UCAN Daily Full Bulletin
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
© Copyright 2018, UCANews.com All rights reserved
© Copyright 2018, Union of Catholic Asian News Limited. All rights reserved
Expect for any fair dealing permitted under the Hong Kong Copyright Ordinance.
No part of this publication may be reproduced by any means without prior permission.