Reuters Anti-Dorje Shugden Report Backfires
On 21 December 2015, Reuters published a special investigation of the Dorje Shugden issue titled “China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama”. It was supposed to be an unbiased investigation into the Dorje Shugden movement and its alleged links to China. The report has since reverberated throughout the world, lauded by supporters of the ban as evidence that China does indeed support Dorje Shugden and Shugden practitioners.
The article has also invited responses, starting first with a response from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, followed by an objective analysis by Justin Whitaker on Patheos and insightful coverage on the online radio Sputnik by political journalist Andrew Korybko.
Already you will see many outsiders and non-Buddhists are studying carefully and questioning the ban on Dorje Shugden which is VERY GOOD NEWS. The more people know the truth because of the accurate information we put out there, the greater the pressure for the exiled Tibetan leadership to remove the ban. All the problems came from the ban. The ban started from the Tibetan leadership. If they want harmony, then it’s time for both sides to sit down and talk, and discuss on how to dismantle this ban immediately.
This is the original report published by Reuters. As a result, China with its large economy and political influence in the world, has declared openly that they will support religious freedom and all faiths, including the worship of Dorje Shugden. Their statement was a direct response to this Reuters article. This is very good news because the Chinese government is atheist. For an atheist government to openly declare that they give religious freedom to all faiths and forms of worship is definitely moving in the right direction. We should applaud China for this official change instead of criticising them. This support will have positive impact for Dorje Shugden practitioners everywhere because the exiled Tibetan leadership and their supporters have always insisted that there is a link between Shugden practice and China which is totally false. This statement also shows China’s positive direction of opening up their previously atheist restrictions to openly accepting all forms of worship and further states it is a private matter left up to their citizens.
- The article alleges there are links between Dorje Shugden practitioners and China. These allegations are based on the testimony of one already-discredited witness and some anonymous sources
- International Shugden Community protestors are criticised for exercising their right to freedom of speech, in order to protest for their religious freedoms. Along with some Dorje Shugden lamas, the article alleges that the protestors are receiving funding and directives from the Chinese leadership
- Without any evidence, Reuters alleges that China is using the Dorje Shugden issue to create schism within the Tibetan community
Please do click on the image below to read the original article so that you understand the analyses to follow. It is important to understand this issue well because it directly concerns the future of our practice of Dorje Shugden. Despite such a lengthy investigation by a reputable news agency, questions are already being raised as to the veracity and accuracy of Reuters’ report. These questions are being raised by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, as well as non-Shugden practitioners who are in support of the truth.
From the Chinese Foreign Ministry
The Chinese government responded by saying that all citizens have the freedom of belief in China, and that “all religions and sects receive equal respect and protection”. The Chinese leadership’s response is in stark contrast to the exiled Tibetan leadership in Dharamsala. People may claim what they like, but there is no denying that they are the original source of this conflict by suppressing the rights of Dorje Shugden practitioners and ignoring their religious freedoms. It has been nearly two decades since the ban was first implemented in 1996 without the consultation and input of the Tibetan people, not unlike the theocratic behaviour that the Chinese Foreign Ministry highlights in their response to Reuters.
I was also happy to see that the Chinese Foreign Ministry demonstrates an understanding of Dorje Shugden’s nature, history and background. It shows that they have been watching and learning and reading up about Dorje Shugden, and that the evidence is overwhelming that he is not a spirit. It is up to people whether they want to believe in Dorje Shugden or not, but the Chinese government themselves recognise that Dorje Shugden is a protecting deity (and not a spirit).
If the exiled Tibetan leadership had hoped to embarrass Shugden practitioners by shedding light on their so-called links with China, I would say their plans have backfired because it gave the Chinese leadership another opportunity to highlight the shortcomings and authoritarian behaviour of the exiled Tibetan leadership. They also gave China an opportunity to officially recognise and support the practice of Dorje Shugden, and openly state everyone has religious freedom.
Isn’t it ironic that Dharamsala is becoming more and more suppressive of religious freedoms, while the Chinese government who is accused of suppressing religious freedoms is actually becoming more and more open?
Justin Whitaker on Patheos.com
The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response was swiftly followed by an objective analysis by Mr Justin Whitaker who has previously examined the Shugden issue. In fact, Mr Whitaker previously had some relatively anti-Shugden conclusions.
Although Mr Whitaker previously made disparaging remarks about the practice, still he points out that the original article by Reuters, while broad, actually contains many shortcomings and assumptions.
Mr Whitaker is rightly concerned that the Reuters investigation does not produce any evidence to any of the claims made. Although the report is supposed to investigate a link between Shugden practice and China, Mr Whitaker recognises that allegations made are not different than what we have heard before. The title of the report therefore is quite misleading – it paints a confident picture that this link is confirmed when in fact, it is not and the report relies mostly on the testimony of an informant. We are not sure if Mr Whitaker is aware of this, but Lama Tseta as an informant has already been discredited by the Tibetan community who no longer take his claims seriously.
Months ago, when Lama Tseta’s “testimony” was first published, it was pointed out that a video testimony without evidence is not a testimony at all. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can sit in front of a camera and record themselves saying anything they want but unless they have proof, their words are just hollow accusations. His claims that he was the head of the Dorje Shugden Society were never proven. For example, he never showed photographs of his work and actually, his claims were later refuted by people that everybody knows are actual members of the Dorje Shugden Society. When questioned and asked to show proof of his claims, he stayed quiet. It was later revealed that Lama Tseta had been lying to receive funding and other benefits from the exiled Tibetan leadership.
How come the only source for these media outlets is Lama Tseta, who has already lost his credibility? How come no one wants to openly come out and confirm the links to China if it is so true? How come Lama Tseta has no proof of his claims and no one questions this, and how come this so-called official from the Indian Interior Ministry only speaks on condition of anonymity? What are they afraid of and what are they trying to hide?
Mr Whitaker also takes issue with Reuters’ treatment of Shugden worshippers as one homogenous group. Other commentators familiar with Tibetan society have the same perspective, for example Jamyang Norbu and even Lukar Jam. In his Sikyong manifesto, Lukar Jam recognised three groups of Shugden practitioners and called for “a nuance, comprehensive policy to tackle the issue”. This perspective particularly interests me because they are correct to see that not all Shugden practitioners have the exact same view.
This is not just unique for Shugden practitioners. Within the group who don’t practise Dorje Shugden, there are people who are respectful of our personal choices and there are people who are not. So everybody has a different view. For example, some Shugden practitioners hold His Holiness responsible for the ban and they are very strong about this. Whether they are right or wrong is not the point. On the other hand, I always advise my students to respect His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Not only is His Holiness one of my Gurus (but not my root guru) and I have received teachings and practices from him, but also many lamas like His Holiness Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche have advised us to keep faith in both Dorje Shugden and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and not to disrespect or abandon either one. So I must follow.
I hope more and more people will read Mr Whitaker’s analysis because it points to the danger of viewing all Shugden practitioners as one homogenous mass. It risks alienating people who may be able to come together to bridge the divide, and end this conflict once and for all.
Andrew Korybko on Sputnik Radio
Lama Tseta’s credibility was also questioned by Mr Andrew Korybko, a political journalist, who gave a very good summary of the Shugden issue. What is very important about Mr Korybko that you need to know is that he does not appear to have any links to Buddhism. He is not a Buddhist, he does not appear to be interested in Buddhism and he does not appear to have any background in the Dorje Shugden matter. So his stance is 100% objective because he does not have anything to gain from supporting the Dalai Lama or going against him, or supporting Dorje Shugden or going against the practice.
Or view the video on the server at:
Third on the countdown is Reuters’ anti-China fail, where they tried implicating Beijing for supporting an anti-Dalai Buddhist group, but in reality, raised awareness about his autocratic sectarianism. So folks, I found this story to be extraordinarily interesting and have been waiting to share with you guys.
Reuters came up with an article that was part of their anti-China series, entitled “China Co-opts a Buddhist Sect in Global Effort to Smear Dalai Lama” and guys, is it fascinating or what? Now, forget about the fact that nothing in this entire article can be proven, and even they admit that there’s no proof except for some disgruntled monk’s testimony and that’s it. But folks, did you know that Dalai Lama is fiercely sectarian? Did you even know that sectarianism exists in Buddhism? Now, I did, well, to an extent because I have been researching new religion in general for unrelated political reasons but I wasn’t aware of this. Here’s what’s going on in a nutshell.
For centuries, the Dalai Lama respected, and in some cases even worshipped Dorje Shugden, a Buddhist spirit-creature that is seen by many as a Protector but then the current Dalai Lama came along and because he wanted to centralize the beliefs of his flock and gain total control over them, he said it is wrong to worship this entity back around 1996 or so. And guys, did it create an outcry or what? Buddhists the world over were shocked, even those that liked the Dalai Lama and supported his ethnic aggression against China. They felt betrayed. It might not be the best comparison, but that would be like the Catholic Pope all of a sudden saying that it is not ok to pray to a very popular saint, that it must be stopped immediately. People were flat out confused, and then they realized that what China had been saying all along was right – the Dalai Lama is a sectarian politically-minded individual who wants to split Chinese society, be it Han or Tibetan to achieve nefarious purposes.
Well, as any scorned individual would ballistically do, especially those religiously scorned like the millions of Buddhists that the Dalai Lama disrespected and basically labelled as “infidels”, they began a protest movement and now they follow him all across the world. They have a worldwide presence, and they make a scene everywhere he goes. They are especially prevalent in the West – in the UK and the US in particular. And Reuters has taken a flamboyant and false stand that they are somehow all paid by Beijing and under its influence. Wait a second here, if the propaganda of the past six decades is to be believed, doesn’t China supposedly hate Buddhists? Why would it side with that? You see, what I’m pointing out here is that it is all misinformation, every single bit of it. And that they change their script however they like in order to pursue their main narrative – Dalai Lama good, anything opposed to him bad, even other Buddhists.
I was a bit shocked with the article to be honest with you all, because I mean to regular thinking minds like mine and all of you guys who are listening, this piece raises awareness about the Dalai Lama’s autocratic sectarianism, and it is not really a smear piece at all if you think about it, to resort to such a radical change in angle and script that now Pro-Chinese Buddhists are siding with the anti-Buddhist Chinese. I mean come on, get out of here, it’s just condescending to the readers and it shows how desperate Reuters, but most importantly the people behind them feeding them the so-called lead for these stories are, to manufacture some kind of, any kind of anti-Chinese pro-Dalai Lama message, no matter the consequences it has for any logic involved whatsoever.
So this analysis is the view of somebody who is new to the topic, and has no interest in Tibetan politics or Tibetan Buddhism. And after doing his own investigation, he has come to the conclusion that all evidence of a link between Shugden and China is circumstantial and based on the testimony of a “disgruntled monk”.
Mr Korybko himself brings up some important points:
- Although there is no evidence, Reuters and other news agencies always appear to be in such a rush to publish anti-China articles. Actually my students did some research and they found that there are rumours that Reuters is controlled by the British government. So even though they are a private company, they publish articles that indirectly support the British government’s interests. Reuters is a respected news agency so I cannot understand why they would publish an article with claims that have no evidence unless it was for some other reason, or unless they were misled by their informants and investigators.
- The article backfired and now highlights that His Holiness may actually be sectarian, and then gives a lot of evidence as to why. It’s without question that the people who are responsible for the ban are the Tibetan leadership. If China is indeed paying anyone, the only reason why they have anyone to pay is because the Tibetan leadership created the ban! The article also focuses so much on the ban and the protests. The fact people are protesting means they have something to be upset about, and the fact His Holiness keeps ignoring them and doesn’t want dialogue means he’s not willing to resolve whatever issues they’re unhappy with.
- That Dharamsala are always changing their story to keep up with their narrative that His Holiness is good. The Tibetan leadership have no firm stance on anything, and they change their minds as and when they wish, based on what they think His Holiness wants. This kind of government is very difficult to trust, if you ask me, because they change their minds all the time without any thorough explanation to their citizens.
- The ban on Dorje Shugden started 19 years ago in 1996. Tibetans have been in exile for 60 years since 1959. Have the Chinese leadership been paying Dorje Shugden practitioners since the protests or for the additional 37 years beforehand? In either case, it would be very generous (and illogical) of the Chinese leadership to financially support Buddhists who rely on Dorje Shugden, considering Tibetans have always insisted that China hates Buddhism. You know, if the Chinese government is funding any Shugden groups, then the Tibetan government should be fair and stop funding any anti-Shugden groups. Western donors should also stop funding the Tibetan leadership because their donations are being used to suppress and marginalise groups of people based on their faith.
- The fact is that the protests have only been a regular occurrence since 2008 and prior to that, Dorje Shugden was already being worshipped for 400 years. Mr Korybko even knows that at one point, His Holiness also relied on Dorje Shugden.
Translation of the Baidu article on Reuters:
Reuters (LSE:RTR, NASDAQ:, RTRSY) is one of the world’s earliest established agencies. It is currently the UK’s largest news agency and one of the four largest Western news agencies. As one of the world’s top three largest multimedia news agencies, Reuters provides all kinds of news and financial data, and operates in 128 countries. Reuters provides news to the newspapers, television and other types of media, and is internationally reputed to provide fast and accurate reporting. Reuters also provides trading tools and platforms for stocks and foreign exchange, so traders can analyze financial data and manage the risk of transactions ; at the same time, Reuters’ system enables customers to complete their trading transactions via the Internet, replacing trading through telephone or traditional transactions at the New York Stock Exchange trading hall. The electronic trading service also connects the members of the financial communities.
Reuters was founded by a British man, Paul Julius Reuter in 1850 in Aachen, Germany, who moved to London, England the following year. In 1865, Reuter expanded his private news agency into a big company. In 1916, Reuters was reorganised as Reuters Limited. It is renowned globally for its speedy news reporting that is widely used by newspapers around the world. Reuters is nominally a private enterprise, but in actual fact it is controlled by the government, and is the official mouthpiece of the British.
The Reuters article was accompanied by this short video which recognises that 20 years ago, His Holiness was much more popular than he is today. Embarrassingly, the Reuters correspondent David Lague himself acknowledges that the Dalai Lama’s popularity is declining, thereby confirming that the so-called “smear campaign” against His Holiness is working. For Shugden practitioners who are committed to protesting against the ban, hearing such a statement merely provides more incentive to protest, knowing that their efforts are having an impact.
Or view the video on the server at:
In this way, the Reuters article has actually backfired. Not only has it provided incentive for the protestors to continue by telling them their efforts are working, but the publication of this report led to China issuing an official statement granting full religious freedom to all faiths, including Dorje Shugden. In publishing this report, Reuters prompted China to officially recognise Dorje Shugden as a practice, thereby granting it all religious rights afforded under Chinese law.
In the video, Mr Lague also claimed possession of a document proving China’s official support for Dorje Shugden but it seems such a document may no longer be relevant or necessary now that the Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued their statement recognising Dorje Shugden as an official practice. It would however be good journalistic practice for Mr Lague to produce this document, to show at least some proof of the links that Reuters alleges to exist between Dorje Shugden practice and China. After all, in the Reuters investigation, the only proof offered thus far was the testimony of a few anonymous sources and a monk who credibility is already highly questionable.
Mr Lague also failed to recognise that the recent public relations damage to His Holiness’ image had nothing to do with Shugden practitioners. It was not a Shugden practitioner that authored or published the VICE article, nor was it a Shugden practitioner who made remarks about His Holiness’ successor. It was in fact His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself who remarked that his successor, should there be one, must be an attractive female. This comment was picked up, broadcast and analysed by media agencies all over the world as a sexist comment out of place in contemporary thought.
Increasingly, due to incidents like these, we are seeing the Tibetan leadership’s popularity and influence waning. We are also seeing more and more people questioning why the exiled Tibetan leadership never provided any concrete basis for the ban on Dorje Shugden, and why all the claims and allegations made about Shugden practitioners never have any proof or basis.
How come Lama Tseta is allowed to make so many allegations against Dorje Shugden worshippers but he isn’t asked to provide any evidence at all? And even when he cannot provide evidence, people still publish his views? In the past, he has been able to say that Shugden lamas are responsible for the alleged murders in the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala. How does Lama Tseta know this and does he have any evidence? If he doesn’t have evidence, he should stop talking about it. And if he does have evidence, he should not withhold it. He should go to the authorities like Interpol with his evidence or else he is an accessory to murder.
More and more we are seeing that Dorje Shugden practitioners are being victimised and abused, and these conclusions are being arrived at by people who are not connected to the practice. In the original Reuters article, the journalists quote Zhu Weiqun (religious-affairs official) as saying that the international media are “less and less interested in the Dalai Lama”. This is definitely true because nowadays, more foreign governments and heads of state are less willing to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
I think it is sad that His Holiness’ work has been overshadowed by this Dorje Shugden issue. The more articles like the Reuters one are published, the more people are forced to speak up and highlight the illegal ban even if they are not Buddhists themselves. It’s just logical – if Reuters had not published their article, then maybe China would not have been forced to take a public stand on the Dorje Shugden issue, and Mr Whitaker and Mr Korbyko’s powerful analyses would not have been published. Now that it is all published, they simply add to the growing body of work that is not in favour of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
For more interesting information:
- The Dorje Shugden category on my blog
- China officially supports Dorje Shugden
- Reuters Investigation on Dorje Shugden Inaccurate?
- When Reuters becomes a tool of oppression
- Dalai Lama, China & Dorje Shugden
- Dorje Shugden: My side of the story (多杰雄登：我这方面的说法)
- To Sum It Up
- Dorje Shugden people
- This happened in the USA
- I can speak up now about Shugden
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