Under new rules, Tibetan monasteries must now be run by Chinese government officials, a step that worries a human rights group that says it will worsen tensions in an already inflamed region.
Monks have officially run the monasteries since the early 1980s, Human Rights Watch writes. Though committees regulated by the government oversee all places of worship, including monasteries, those panels "were comprised of monks who had at least been elected by their own community."
The new system requires an unelected committee that will oversee the existing panel, the human rights group says. Only two monasteries, seen as politically reliable, are exempt.
The step is "a worrying indication that the state is becoming increasingly invasive in its management of religion in Tibet," Human Rights Watch writes.
Chinese authorities have ramped up “patriotic education” in schools and monasteries and forced Tibetans to renounce the Dalai Lama, The Times reported early this year.
The repression has fueled a wave of self-immolations in Tibet that have reenergized the long-running independence movement with cycles of martyrdom and protest. "I am giving away my body as an offering of light to chase away the darkness," one lama said in a nine-minute recording left behind when he died.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles and Barbara Demick in Beijing
Photo: An exiled Tibetan woman shouts slogans during a protest march marking the 53rd anniversary of the Tibetan Women's Uprising Day in New Delhi on Monday. Credit: Sajjad Hussain / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images