Tibetans taking part in a prayer festival in western China’s Sichuan province this week held up flags bearing photos of the Dalai Lama and other exiled Tibetan leaders in defiance of Chinese orders forbidding display of the images, sources said.
The flags, which also carried prayers for world peace, were held aloft on Wednesday at Gomang monastery in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Thousands of Tibetans took part in the festival, which is hosted each year on a rotating basis by one of six villages attached to the monastery, RFA’s source said, citing local contacts.
“This year, on March 4, it was Suwa village’s turn,” the source, named Gyatso, said.
“Participants shouted slogans calling for Tibetan unity and paraded flags with photos of the Dalai Lama, the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, and the former [exile] prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche,” he said.
Other flags bore images of the world and of doves of peace, the source said.
Lobsang Sangay, who was elected Tibet’s exile prime minister in 2011, now holds the title Sikyong or “political leader” of Tibet’s India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration.
Meanwhile, Chinese paramilitary troops have been deployed in large numbers in Ngaba in advance of the anniversary of a failed March 10, 1959 Tibetan revolt against China’s rule, Gyatso said.
“Now that March 10 is approaching, security has been tightened in all respects,” Gyatso said.
“The Chinese are being very cautious.”
Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of the March 10 uprising, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
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.
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 for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.