Government employees in a Tibetan prefecture of northwestern China’s Gansu province have been barred from participating in a major Buddhist religious ceremony this week amid heavy security presence, with warnings given of administrative punishment if they ignore the ban, sources said.
The ancient Kalachakra ceremony, conducted by the elderly and well-respected monk Setsang Lobsang Palden Rinpoche, is being held in Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) city in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to sources.
“Government employees of Kanlho prefecture, Tsoe city, and local government schools are forbidden from attending the Kalachakra teaching,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“All staff have been informed that they cannot take leave during the teaching and join the congregation,” the source said, adding, “Those violating the ban will not be named on any list of outstanding employees for the year.”
The Kalachakra ceremony and teachings, which are often conducted outside Tibet by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, began on Monday and will run until Thursday and are being held at the Genden Choeling monastery on the outskirts of Tsoe.
Kalachakra, which means “Wheel of Time,” is a ritual that prepares devotees to be reborn in Shambhala, a celestial kingdom which, it is said, will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.
Thousands of Tibetans are taking part in the ceremony in Tsoe, and Chinese security forces including armed paramilitary troops and police have poured into the city in large numbers to “intimidate the crowd that has gathered for the teaching,” one source said.
Tibetans attending the Kalachakra who have come from other areas have to pass through assigned gates raised to check their identities, another source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Those not in the correct line are questioned, and restrictions are imposed on them,” the source said, adding, “Authorities fear there may be incidents of self-immolation during the gathering.”
Concerned that large gatherings in Tibetan areas might launch sudden protests against Beijing’s rule, Chinese security forces frequently monitor, and sometimes close down, events involving large crowds, sources say.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.