The US State Department expressed concern on Thursday over reports of China’s actions against Tibetan Buddhists, including the destruction of Buddha statues as part of its campaign to erase the ethnic minority’s traditions. The State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, which promotes universal respect for freedom of religion or belief for all as a core goal of US foreign policy, urged Chinese authorities to protect Tibetans’ right to to practice their faith freely.
“We are deeply disturbed by reports of escalating actions by the PRC against Tibetan Buddhists, including authorities destroying Buddha statues, removing prayer wheels and burning prayer flags. We urge the authorities of the PRC to respect the right of Tibetans to practice their faith freely,” the US Office of International Religious Freedom wrote on Twitter.
The statement comes days after reports emerged that China destroyed a second Buddhist statue revered by Tibetans in western China’s Sichuan province. The destruction of a three-storey statue of Maitreya Buddha at Gaden Namyal Ling Monastery in Drago Province in Kardze Tibet Autonomous Prefecture was confirmed by commercial satellite images, Radio Free Asia reported.
Chinese officials claimed the statue had been razed to the ground for security reasons, the report said. They said there was no fire escape in the temple that houses the three-storey statue of Maitreya Buddha, RFA reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Beijing has long been accused of cracking down on ethnic minorities in an apparent attempt to strip their identities. China has reportedly imposed restrictions on religious and “Arab” architecture in Hui-dominated areas. Huis is the Chinese speaking community that follows Islam and is considered the largest Muslim minority group there with over 20 million inhabitants.