Chinese authorities are tightening restrictions across Tibetan-populated regions in advance of the July 6 birthday of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, posting warnings against celebrations of the politically sensitive event and blocking public gatherings that could be linked to it, sources said.
The Dalai Lama, who turns 80 this year, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been met with harsh punishment in the past.
Police in Gansu province’s Machu (in Chinese, Maqu) county on June 5 detained two Tibetans identified as the organizers of a horse race planned for June 10 to 13 and open to contestants from Tibet’s traditional Kham and Amdo regions, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“[But] participants could enter only on the condition that they save the life of at least one animal and dedicate the merit of the act to the Dalai Lama’s long life,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Prohibitions against gambling and the sale of alcohol would also have applied for the duration of the race, the source said.
No details were immediately available regarding the present condition or whereabouts of the men—one named Jamyang and the other unidentified—who were taken into custody, but local officials have now forbidden public gatherings at the proposed venue for the race and deployed security forces at the site, according to Tibetan media reports.
Religious gathering banned
Chinese authorities in neighboring Sichuan have meanwhile banned a two-week religious assembly at the Jonang monastery in Dzamthang (Rangtang) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a second source said.
The gathering, during which the monastery’s 3,000 monks would have hosted formal debates on religious topics, was scheduled to begin on June 8, the source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But local Chinese officials issued a decree banning the event, saying that since the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday celebrations in July have been banned, the gathering at Jonang is also being banned,” he said.
Dzamthang’s Jonang monastery had previously been the site of several self-immolation protests challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, “which led to increasingly severe restrictions by the Chinese authorities,” the source said.
“Nowadays, the monastery is under tight control by Chinese police,” he said.
News of the banned events comes as a new list of prohibited behaviors is being circulated in at least one county in Qinghai province’s Golog (Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a third source told RFA.
“The authorities in Pema [Banma] county have posted a document listing “20 Points for Stability” in the area,” RFA’s source said.
Among other prohibitions, the directives state that Tibetans are forbidden to raise slogans for Tibetan independence, hoist the banned national flag, or compose or sing songs calling for freedom for Tibet, he said.
“Tibetans are also not allowed to organize activities related to the birth anniversary of the Dalai Lama or display his photos,” he said, adding that Tibetans may also no longer publicly celebrate the release of prisoners jailed for their protest activities.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 141 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Chakmo Tso and Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee and Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.