In a bid to tighten control over Tibetan travel outside China, Chinese authorities are seizing the passports of Tibetans returning from visits to Buddhist sites in India and Nepal, sometimes destroying the documents in front of them, sources say.
Officials were particularly severe with Tibetans arriving at airports in Beijing and the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu on Jan. 12, a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They ripped the passports of some travelers upon their arrival, rendering them invalid,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They used scissors to destroy the passports right before their eyes,” the source said.
Tibetans returning in December and January to northwest China’s provinces of Qinghai and Gansu also lost their passports and faced harsh questioning by police, the source said.
“Authorities said their passports would not be returned to them until May 2017.”
“Many Tibetans went through great difficulty to get Chinese passports in the hope of going on pilgrimage to Nepal, India, and Thailand,” the source said.
“But Chinese authorities unfortunately changed their mind and ordered the pilgrims to return home when the time came for the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teachings to begin [in India].”
A difficult process
“Unlike [Han] Chinese citizens, Tibetans have to clear many bureaucratic hurdles to get their passports,” RFA's source said.
“It is a very difficult process for them.”
Kalachakra, which means Wheel of Time, is a ritual that prepares devotees to be reborn in Shambhala, a celestial kingdom which, it is said, will vanquish the forces of evil in a future cosmic battle.
The ceremony and teachings are often conducted outside Tibet by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a “splittist” seeking to separate Tibet, which was invaded by Communist China in 1950, from Beijing’s control.
To reduce attendance at this year’s ceremony, Chinese officials moved beginning in November to confiscate the passports of Tibetans authorized to travel abroad, at the same time ordering Tibetans already present in India and Nepal to return home.
Many had been told their families would be harmed if they failed to go back, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.