In open defiance of authorities, over a thousand Tibetans in western China’s Sichuan province gathered this week in public at a Buddhist monastery to pray for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is receiving medical treatment in the U.S.
Participants in the gathering had assembled two weeks before at Chokri monastery in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture for an already scheduled traditional ceremony, a Tibetan source in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“This is an annual prayer gathering which usually begins on Jan. 13 and ends on Jan. 25,” RFA’s source, named Lodroe, said.
“But following a notice sent out on Jan. 20 by the [India-based] Central Tibetan Administration requesting prayers for His Holiness the Dalai Lama while he undergoes a health check at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S., the Tibetans extended their praying for two extra days,” Lodroe said.
“They dedicated the gathering’s final two days, Jan. 25 and 26, to those specific prayers,” he said.
Video and photos circulating on social media sites and obtained by RFA show hundreds of Tibetan men, women, and children seated before a large shrine at the monastery and praying before a large image of the Dalai Lama, whose photos are banned by Chinese authorities in Tibetan areas.
No crackdown on event
The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959, is reviled by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist who seeks to split the formerly self-governing region from Beijing’s rule.
In what he calls a Middle Way Approach, though, the Dalai Lama himself says that he seeks only a “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.
No word has been received of a possible suppression by Chinese authorities of this week’s gathering in Kardze, a second source living in India with connections in the region told RFA on Tuesday.
“So far there has been no word of a crackdown because of the prayer gatherings,” Chokri Phuntsok Tsering said, adding,“The situation is said to be tense, though.”
Speaking on Wednesday at a prayer service held in Dharamsala, India, Tibet’s exile political leader, or Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay said that the Dalai Lama, 80, is expected to make a full recovery after treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and that there are now “no major concerns” for his health.
“This has been confirmed by His Holiness himself as well as the doctors who are looking after [him],” Sangay said in a statement released by the exile Central Tibetan Administration.
Reported by Sonam Wangdue for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.