Tibetans ordered home to China ahead of a large Buddhist gathering led this month in India by the Dalai Lama have been stripped of their passports and questioned by police, with authorities especially wanting to know what they discussed with others following their return, Tibetan sources say.
“Many Tibetans who had traveled to India and Nepal on pilgrimage were forced to return home before they could receive the Kalachakra teachings from [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama,” a source in a Tibetan-populated region of China told RFA.
“When they came back, many had their passports taken away from them,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Most of the passports held by Tibetans who had traveled from Qinghai province had already been made invalid,” the source added.
Tibetans who had traveled to India from Qinghai province’s Tsoshar (in Chinese, Haidong) prefecture were called in to government offices and questioned about their trip, with officials wanting to know which pilgrimage sites they had visited, what items they had brought back with them, and whom they had spoken with after they returned, he said.
“No one was beaten or tortured, though,” he said.
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.
The ceremony and teachings are often conducted outside Tibet by the Dalai Lama, who is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a “splittist” seeking to separate Tibet, which was invaded by Communist China in 1950, from Beijing’s control.
In a bid to reduce attendance at this year’s ceremony, Chinese officials moved beginning in November to confiscate the passports of Tibetans authorized to travel abroad, at the same time ordering Tibetans already present in India and Nepal to return home.
Many had been told their families would be harmed if they failed to go back, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Each Tibetan returning to Tsoshar was given 500 yuan (U.S. $72.94) by authorities as a gesture of thanks for their cooperation, with a promise of a further 2,000 yuan (U.S. $291.76) to be handed over later, RFA’s source said, adding that returnees were also promised that their confiscated passports would be replaced.
“It is difficult to believe that they will do what they have promised, though,” he said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.