DHARAMSALA—More than 100 Tibetan monks in China’s western Qinghai province have marked the Tibetan New Year, Losar, with a peaceful march protesting Chinese government policies, residents and exiled Tibetans say.
“On Feb. 25, the first day of Tibetan Losar, the monks of Lutsang monastery in Mangra [in Chinese, Guinan] county in the Tsolho [in Chinese, Hainan] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture marched in protest,” a Mangra resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Once they reached the Mangra county center, they presented a list of demands to the county officials,” the man said.
Details of the demands were unavailable, he said, though he described the march as “peaceful” and aimed at upholding the “identity and aspirations” of Tibetans.
Tibetans have largely boycotted traditional Losar festivities this year in memory of Tibetans killed and jailed in protests against Chinese rule throughout the region last year.
A former Lutsang monk, speaking from New York and citing contacts in Mangra, said the march began at 6:30 a.m. More than 100 monks took part, gathering first in small groups, he said.
“[They marched] from the Lhamo Yongdzin shrine to the Mangra county center, a distance of about one mile.”
Monks from Lutsang monastery march to county government building in the early morning hours, Feb. 25, 2009. Photo: Voice of Tibet
“The monks had four main demands and wishes,” he said.
“First, China should understand the aspirations and thoughts of the younger Tibetan generation. Second, China should understand that this year’s boycott by Tibetans of Losar celebrations could be more widespread than last year’s protests.”
“Third, the monks have offered their protest and a candlelight vigil as a gift to all Tibetans everywhere,” he said. “And fourth, they pray for the wishes of Tibetans to be fulfilled.”
The monks observed their vigil for about 30 minutes and then dispersed at the urging of Tibetan community leaders and senior officials of the monastery, said another former Lutsang monk, now living in India.
On Feb. 27, the local Public Security Bureau office posted a notice calling on leaders of the march to surrender to Chinese authorities and threatening to deal “severely” with those who fail to turn themselves in, another source said.
“I have just learned that Lutsang monastery is now surrounded by a force of the People’s Armed Police,” the source added. “No one is allowed to enter or leave the monastery.”
Calls seeking comment from the Mangra Public Security Bureau office rang unanswered.Original reporting in Tibetan by Dukar Bum, Palden Gyal, and Chakmo Tso. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translations by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.