Restrictions and Their Anomalies:The Third Forum and the Regulation of Religion in Tibet

Robert Barnett

Abstract


In 1994, at a meeting known as the Third Forum on Tibet Work, the Chinese authorities announced a series of restrictions on religious practice in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Described by many outsiders in terms of abuses of rights, in fact those measures differed in important ways. By analysing the target, rationale and procedure of these restrictions, it becomes clear that some were relatively routine, while others were anomalous – their purpose was not explained by officials, the source of their authority was not clear, or the restrictions were simply not admitted to at all. These anomalous orders can be linked to major changes in underlying discourses of modernization and development among officials in Tibet at the time. They reflected undeclared shifts in attitudes to religion and cultural difference, and seeded the dramatic worsening in state–society relations that has taken place in Tibetan areas since that time.

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