Defying Chinese bans and threats of punishment, villagers in a Tibetan-populated county of southwestern China’s Sichuan province carried a large photo of the Dalai Lama in open procession this week at the beginning of an annual summer picnic and horse race, sources said.
The July 17 parade by residents of Powa village in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture’s Bathang (Batang) county was led by a motorcade carrying a life-size image of the exiled spiritual leader and followed by a score of horsemen in traditional dress, a Tibetan living in New York told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The colorfully decorated motorcade carrying the Dalai Lama’s image moved on amid the blowing of horns and clashing of cymbals to a sacred site on a hill at the foot of a mountain,” RFA's source said, citing contacts in his native Bathang.
“There, everyone gathered with ceremonial scarves in their hands to pray for his blessing.”
The annual summer picnic at Powa village, which lies about three hours’ drive from the Bathang county seat, draws an estimated 2,000 people each year from nine communities in the area, the source said.
“But the procession with the Dalai Lama’s photo was begun four years ago, with the image carried at first on horseback and then moved to a motorcade last year.”
Chinese authorities blocked mobile phone and internet connections ahead of this year’s festival, but no police restrictions were reported at the festival site itself, RFA’s source said.
The Dalai Lama, 81, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and public displays of his photo in Tibetan areas of China have been met with harsh punishment in the past.
Reported by Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.