Some "Independent Spiritual Activity" Continues Despite Government Crackdown

March 10, 2004

Source: The Washington Post

On March 10, 2004 The Washington Post ran a feature article on the "struggle for spiritual freedom" in China, particularly in the Tibetan region. The article reported, "The Chinese government allows people to worship only in party-run churches, mosques and temples, considers any autonomous religious organization a potential threat and routinely imprisons priests, monks and others. But Larung Gar's ability to survive and flourish suggests the party is no longer able to crush all independent spiritual activity, or is unwilling to risk the popular backlash that might result if it tries. A quarter-century after China abandoned Mao Zedong's rigid version of socialism in favor of free-market reforms, the Chinese enjoy greater prosperity and personal freedom than ever under Communist rule. But the state still attempts to maintain control over a broad spectrum of society, from public affairs to the arts and religion. The friction that results is a defining characteristic of life in modern China, where people are testing, and often redefining, the limits of what the authorities will permit. Controlling this popular pressure -- sometimes with repression, sometimes with restraint -- is one of the central challenges confronting the party as it seeks to preserve a monopoly on power at a time of rising social discontent and wrenching economic change."