BEIJING -- A Tibet expert on Monday defended progress in religious and individual rights in the region, saying religion had progressed from a coercive force before 1951 to a legally protected freedom.
Old Tibetan law stipulated that Buddhism was the only legal religion, and other religions were banned as heresy, said Sherab Nyima, vice president of the Beijing-based Central University for Nationalities, on the sidelines of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights.
Now freedom of religion was a fundamental right of Chinese citizens, which was under the protection of the constitution, he said.
Under the feudal serfdom of old Tibet, most people were merely slaves who were deprived of basic human dignity. They had no personal rights, and no right of subsistence, not to mention political and other human rights.
Tibetan law before 1951 when Tibet was peacefully liberated even publicly protected privileges of a few and inequality, he said.
The expert said the Chinese government's respect of religious freedom was out of the respect for basic human rights.