Chinese authorities in Tibetan-populated counties in Qinghai province are placing new restrictions on the display of photos of the Dalai Lama, searching personal vehicles and beating and detaining those who resist the photos’ confiscation, Tibetan sources say.
The move follows reports in June of a relaxation on the ban of images of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in Qinghai and neighboring Sichuan. The reports were rejected by Chinese authorities, saying there will be no softening in the ruling Chinese Communist Party's "struggle" against the Dalai Lama.
“On July 15, the police were stopping all vehicles in the Yulshul [in Chinese, Yushu] area and checking for photos of the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa,” another senior Tibetan religious figure, a local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Photos of Buddhist protector deities were also confiscated,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Those who tried to resist were severely beaten up,” he said.
“These days, all vehicles owned by common Tibetans are being stopped by the police and searched for photos of the Dalai Lama,” a U.S.-based Tibetan named Lobsang Sangye told RFA, citing contacts in the region.
“If they find any photos of the Dalai Lama, those are confiscated,” he said, adding, “In Chumarleb [Qumulai] county in Yulshul, two monks who attempted to resist were detained and taken away.”
The move appears to reverse a policy shift reported in June, and described as “experimental,” in which authorities are said to have told Tibetans in several parts of Qinghai that photos of the Dalai Lama could be openly displayed.
“From now on, photos of the Dalai Lama can be displayed, and no one is permitted to criticize him,” officials told Tibetan monks at a June 19 meeting held in Qinghai’s Tsigorthang (Xinghai) county, according to a Tibetan resident of the area.
A public notice titled “Don’t Listen to Rumors” has now been widely circulated by government departments in Qinghai’s Golog (Guoluo) prefecture, however, declaring there has been “no change” in China’s policy regarding the Dalai Lama.
“You must fight against the Dalai Lama’s efforts to split the Motherland and damage the work of the leadership of [the ruling] Chinese Communist Party and socialism,” says the notice, a copy of which was obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Chinese leaders regularly accuse the Dalai Lama of trying to “split” Tibet away from China, whose troops marched into the self-governing Himalayan region in 1950.
But the Dalai Lama denies seeking independence for Tibet, saying that he seeks only a “greater autonomy” that will preserve Tibetan religious and cultural freedoms for his homeland as a part of China.
Reported by Lumbum Tashi, Dorjee Tso, and Guru Choekyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.