A local government in China’s Sichuan Province issued a sudden order this month for Tibetan pilgrims in Bodha Gaya, India and Nepal to return home, forcing hundreds of travelers to cut short plans to attend teaching by their Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, sources in the region told RFA.
The Dalai Lama has been holding a month-long program of spiritual teachings in Bodh Gaya, a revered Buddhist site in India’s Bihar state, drawing religious tourists and pilgrims for instructions on Tibetan Buddhism.
“The recall order was for all Tibetans living in those counties under Sichuan province, predominantly the Kham area, such as Dege, Minyak and probably all other counties,” a Tibetan living in Nepal told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Sunday.
“It even includes Tibetan businessmen, who now fear their passports could be taken away,” said the source.
The Nepal-based Tibetan said the recall was surprising because many Tibetans living that area’s Tibetan autonomous prefecture had been issued Chinese passports by their local governments not long earlier.
“But the Chinese government in several counties in eastern Tibet have issued a public notice, which stated that Tibetans who are on pilgrimages in India and Nepal, and those who are there to visit family and relatives, had to return at the earliest time. If they failed to return home on the given deadline, they would face consequences,” said the source.
A Tibetan from Tawu county living in Nepal confirmed seeing the Chinese official recall order, and said he was aware of “about a dozen of Tibetans from Tawu who returned after the order was issued.”
The Tawu county local Chinese government suddenly issued a public notice on Jan. 12 urging all pilgrims from Tawu to return home by Jan. 16, he told RFA.
“Pilgrims from those counties had been compelled to stop midway during the ongoing teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and forced to return home. The Chinese government issued the same order to several other counties in eastern Tibet,” said the Tawu source in Nepal.
“The Tibetan pilgrims from Tibet had to leave against their will. The initial order came from Dranggo county, and was followed by Lithang,” said a Tibetan monk living in South India who is originally from Lithang. “
“There were about 300-400 Tibetan pilgrims arrived in India from Lithang alone,” said he monk.
“They were required to return by Jan. 19, and others said their arrival should be reported in Chengdu by the end of January and so many have departed with tears in their eyes,” he said.
An official of the Central Tibetan Administration, the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan government in exile, confirmed the Chinese government’s forced return order for Tibetan pilgrims in India and Nepal.
“At the beginning of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings there were about 2600 Tibetans, but after the Chinese recall, the pilgrims have started to leave, and now only around 200 Tibetans pilgrims remain,” said the official.
Reported by Dawa Dolma and Yandon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Paul Eckert.