Tibetans living in northwestern China’s Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces openly celebrated the 80th birth year of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama this week, combining public and private observances with traditional celebrations of Losar, the Lunar New Year, sources said.
At monasteries in Sichuan’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) and Golog (Guoluo)Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures, participants placed life-size photos of the Dalai Lama on thrones in the monasteries’ courtyards, made offerings, and recited prayers for his long life, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Those taking part included both monks from the monasteries and laypersons from the local Tibetan community,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They threw prayer leaflets in the air, conducted fireworks displays, and openly marked the 80th anniversary year of [the Dalai Lama’s] birth,” he said.
Monasteries taking part in the celebrations on Thursday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, included Se, Nyentse, and Sumdo monasteries in Ngaba, and Jonang Kyada in Golog, sources said.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed national uprising against Chinese occupation in 1959, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
There was no information about how authorities responded to the celebrations this week.
Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photos or public celebrations of his birthday, which falls on July 6, have been met with harsh punishment in the past. In some cases, Tibetans have been detained for having photos of the Dalai Lama on their mobile phones.
Meanwhile, in Rebgong (Tongren) county in Qinghai’s Malho (Huangnan) prefecture , and in the Kanlho (Gannan) prefecture in Gansu, many observances were held in private homes, RFA’s source said.
“These were held with clear indications that the Tibetans were celebrating not only the New Year but also the anniversary year of [the Dalai Lama’s] birth.”
“This year, the number of Tibetans celebrating Losar is much greater than the numbers who celebrated during the past few years,” he said.
“Monasteries and laypeople in this region of Tibet have the unique tradition of paying special respect to their spiritual teachers when those teachers reach 80 years of age,” he added.
At Jonang Kyada monastery in Golog prefecture’s Chigdril (Jiuzhi) county this week, monks celebrated not only the 80th birth year of the Dalai Lama but also of Khenchen Kunga Sherab, the monastery’s abbot, another source said.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 136 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.
Reported by Lhuboom and Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.