The Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet signed the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet(called the 17-Article Agreement for short) on May 23, 1951. With respect to protection of Tibet's religion and culture, the agreement explicitly stipulated: "The policy of freedom of religious belief shall be carried out in Tibet. The religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people shall be protected, and lamaseries shall be protected." The Central Government has since followed the policy of respecting the religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people, and protecting lamaseries and cultural relics.
In 1959, Tibet went through a democratic reform. While abolishing the feudal privileges of the three major feudal lords and upper-class monks, annulling the exploiting system and separating religion from government, the Central Government reiterated that "due respect should be paid to the Tibetan people's freedom of religious belief and folk customs" while religious personnel should be allowed to independently manage monasteries in accordance with the principle of democracy. The Central Government and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region listed well-known religious sites, including the Potala Palace and Jokhang, Tashilhungpo, Zhaibung, Sagya and Sera monasteries, as key cultural relics under national or regional protection.
In 1960, the 10th Panchen Erdeni Qoigyai Gyamcain put forth five measures for the reform of monasteries in Tibet: (1) Giving up exploitation; (2) conducting democratic management; (3) following government decrees and the Constitution in monasteries; (4) lamas taking part in production; and (5) the government covering the lives of old and emaciated lamas and lamas charged with reciting Buddhist scriptures exclusively. Through the reform, Tibetans began to enjoy the freedom to be lamas and lamas began to enjoy the freedom to resume secular life if they chose; various Buddhist sects were equal; and in monastery monks elected a democratic management committee or democratic management group to manage their own religious affairs and conduct Buddhist activities.
In 1985, the Tibetan Branch of the Buddhist Association of China launched a Tibetan language journal entitled Tibetan Buddhism. In the autonomous region, there are now 46,000 monks and nuns. Hundreds of people from religious circles have been elected as deputies to local people's congresses, CPPCC local committees, and as council members of the Buddhist Association. Some work in government at the grassroots level. Buddhist associations of the Tibet Autonomous Region and religious organizations have organized several visits to other parts of the world for study or academic exchanges; they have also received groups and individuals coming to worship Buddha, visit or inspect.
Governments in Tibet at various levels show equality towards various kinds of religions and religious sects, and to people who believe in or do not believe in any religion. They respect and protect various religious activities according to the law. This makes it possible for religious believers and people who do not hold any religious belief, and the various sects of Tibetan Buddhism, to live in harmony. All monasteries are managed by an elected management committee. Monks and nuns are free to study sutras, debate Buddhist doctrine, attend lectures given by eminent monks, give blessings to Buddhist followers, and recite sutras. Buddhist followers are free to worship Buddha in monasteries, recite sutras and take rituals walks. It is a common scene to see Tibetans here and there prostrating themselves all along the way to Buddhist destinations, piling up Mani stone mounds and performing various rituals. Almost all families in Tibet possess sutra halls and shrines in their homes. It is estimated that up to one million people worship Buddha at the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa each year.
Most of the Tibetans and people of the Moinba, Lhoba and Naxi ethnic groups believe in Buddhism. There are also many who believe in Islam and Christianity. In Tibet today, there are four Mosques and some 3,000 Moslems; one Catholic church and some 700 Catholics believers. All religious activities are conducted legally in Tibet to satisfy the needs of religious-minded people.