Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Tibet: Freedom of Religion

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 - 8:30am
2255 Rayburn House Office Building


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on freedom of religion in Tibet, including attention to the politically fraught issue of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.  

Although Buddhism is one of five religions formally recognized by the Chinese state, the practice of Tibetan Buddhism is severely restricted by Chinese authorities. In the aftermath of a wave of protests across the Tibetan plateau in 2008, Communist Party leaders reinforced and expanded restrictive policies that were already fueling grievances. In the years since, Tibetan Buddhists have faced extensive controls on their religious life, including intrusive official presence in monasteries, pervasive surveillance, limits on travel and communications, and ideological reeducation campaigns. Religious expression and activism have been met with violent repression, imprisonment and torture. Conditions are especially difficult in the Tibet Autonomous Region, but controls have also been tightened in Tibetan areas of other provinces.

Tibetan Buddhism is distinguished by a centuries-long history of intertwined religious and political authority, represented in the figure of the Dalai Lama. Although the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has lived in exile since 1959, and renounced his political role in 2011, Chinese authorities appear to fear his moral authority and legitimacy, and constantly vilify him. In light of the Dalai Lama’s advancing age, now 82, the question of his reincarnation has become a major source of tension with the Chinese government, which claims the prerogative of selecting his successor.

Witnesses will describe the conditions of religious life for Tibetans, share their experiences with restrictions on religious freedom and related human rights, analyze the potential political and strategic consequences of continued repression of Tibetans, and offer recommendations for U.S. government policy.

This hearing will be open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. The hearing will be livestreamed via the Commission website, For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton at 202-225-3599 or (for Mr. McGovern) or Jamie Staley at 202-226-1516 or (for Mr. Hultgren). 

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
Randy Hultgren, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC

Opening Remarks


Panel I

  • Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
    Written testimony

Panel II

  • Arjia Rinpoche, Director, Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center 
    Written testimony
  • Nyima Lhamo, Niece and Spokeswoman, Family of deceased monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche
    Written testimony
  • Todd Stein, Former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues
    Written testimony


Submitted for the Record




115th Congress