UPDATED at 08:20 a.m. EST on 2015-06-23
Defying Chinese bans and threats of punishment, Tibetan monks and laypeople living in Qinghai and Sichuan provinces celebrated the 80th anniversary of the birth year of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama over the weekend, sources said.
The celebrations came as Chinese authorities tightened restrictions across Tibetan-populated regions in advance of the Dalai Lama’s July 6 birthday, posting warnings against celebrations of the politically sensitive event and blocking public gatherings that could be linked to it.
On June 21, Tibetan monks and villagers gathered at Churathang, an open area in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Draggo (Luhuo) county, where they set up an altar and offerings in front of a large photo of the Dalai Lama, an exile-based Tibetan monk told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Monday, citing local contacts.
“All those gathered at the site recited prayers for [the Dalai Lama’s] long life and burned incense,” RFA’s source, Ngawang Sherab, said, adding that a large banner had also been raised at the site offering good wishes for the Dalai Lama on the occasion of his birthday.
In Kardze’s Choru area, too, “both laypeople and monks observed the day with different activities,” a second exile source said, also citing local sources.
“But details are not available due to a [Chinese] clampdown on the Internet in the area,” he said.
Public and private celebrations
In Draser village in Qinghai’s Golog (Guoluo) prefecture, local Tibetans evaded bans on celebrations by organizing events within their private homes, a local Tibetan source told RFA.
“But Tibetans living in [Qinghai's] Gepasumdo [Tongde] county organized public offerings of incense and set off fireworks to celebrate,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In Qinghai’s Pema county, Tibetans meanwhile conducted prayer ceremonies in local monasteries, while in another area Tibetans organized a fasting retreat but were prevented from proceeding by police.
“So the Tibetans went to a fish market and spared the lives of hundreds of fish, dedicating the merit of the act to the Dalai Lama’s long life,” he said.
The Dalai Lama, who turns 80 this year, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been with harsh punishment in the past.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 141 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Sonam Wangdu and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.
CORRECTION: Golog county is corrected to Golog prefecture.