Tibetans in two areas in China’s Sichuan and Qinghai provinces have been conducting prayer services in the privacy of their homes for the speedy physical recovery of the exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in response to stepped-up efforts by Chinese authorities to prohibit such activities, Tibetan sources from the areas said.
The 80-year-old Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharamsala, India, traveled to the United States last month to get a regular medical checkup and receive treatment for a prostate condition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., followed by a one-month rest period, according to information on his website.
Tibetans in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) town in Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in southwestern China’s Sichuan province and in the Mangra (Guinan) county area of Tsolho (Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have been praying in secret for the good health of the Dalai Lama, the sources said.
Tibetans in Ngaba and other areas of the prefecture also are conducting prayer services through the Chinese mobile text and voice messaging communication service We Chat, a Tibetan from the town told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They were worried and wanted to conduct a large prayer service for his speedy recovery, but because of Chinese restrictions, it is difficult to form a large prayer congregation,” said the source, who declined to be named. “So many individuals have been praying in the privacy of their homes.”
Although authorities have cut off Internet service Ngaba for some time, local Tibetans who live there were aware that the Dalai Lama had gone abroad for medical treatment, he said.
Keeping watch over Tibetans
In Mangra county, Qinghai province, Chinese officials have been paying frequent visits to Tibetan monasteries and keeping watch over Tibetan activities, making it very difficult for monks and others in monasteries and villages to hold prayer services for the Dalai Lama, said a Tibetan in exile, who is a native of Mangra.
“So the individuals are conducting prayers quietly in their homes,” he said. “[But] after learning about the Dalai Lama’s medical treatment in the U.S., Tibetans are worried and nervous. They wanted to conduct mass prayers, but with an increase in the intensity of the political reeducation campaign, it has been very difficult for Tibetans to congregate.”
Earlier this month, authorities in Sichuan province detained two senior Tibetan monks from Chokri monastery in Draggo (Luhuo) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on suspicion of holding prayers for the good health of the Dalai Lama. The monks had organized a prayer ceremony on Jan. 25, according to the Tibetan Centre For Human Rights and Democracy.
Authorities in three government departments in Draggo also issued an order on Jan. 31 for shopkeepers to turn over their stocks of photos of the Dalai Lama, threatening “severe punishment” for those who failed to comply by Feb. 2. The order mandated that merchants could no longer sell or display the photos in shops or stores serving the public.
The Dalai Lama, whose photos are banned by Chinese authorities in Tibetan areas, fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959 and is reviled by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist who seeks to split the formerly self-governing region from Beijing’s rule.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.