UPDATED at 10:15 a.m. EST on 02-02-2016
Shopkeepers in a Tibetan-populated county in western China’s Sichuan province have been ordered by authorities to hand over all stocks of photos of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, with “severe punishment” threatened for those who fail to comply by Feb. 2.
The order, which was issued on Jan. 31 by three government departments in Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, adds that the photos can also no longer be sold or displayed in shops or stores serving the public.
“If any shop or store possessed photos of the Dalai Lama and displayed these before the date of this notice, these should be voluntarily surrendered to the Draggo County Office of Culture and Discipline by Feb. 2,” reads the order, a copy of which was sent to RFA’s Tibetan Service by a local resident.
“Those who delay in handing these over, or who never turn them in, will be punished severely,” the notice reads.
Before issuance of the order on Jan. 31, an estimated 40 percent of the county’s stores may have sold or displayed the Dalai Lama’s photo, RFA’s source said, quoting from the document and speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Dalai Lama, 80, 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.
Policies forbidding display of the Dalai Lama’s photo have been applied unevenly across Tibetan prefectures of western Chinese provinces and in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), though, with authorities sometimes permitting public viewings of his image during large religious gatherings in the region’s monasteries.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly gave the order's date as Jan. 4.