Tibetans opening a three-day summer festival this week in northwestern China’s Gansu province were forced by authorities to parade on horseback with Chinese national flags, angering Tibetan onlookers and participants, a source in the region says.
The festival, which officially begins the traditional picnic season in the area of Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) city in Gansu’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, was launched on July 17 and will run for three days, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“This year, the Chinese authorities ordered ordinary Tibetans to carry the Chinese flags, warning them of severe consequences if they fail to comply,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The Chinese already had the flags ready to use in the procession. But those who were forced to carry them were deeply angered and offended,” he said.
Similar orders had been given at a festival three years before, but local Tibetans defied the instructions by carrying religious flags instead, the source said.
“So the Chinese sent about 150 Chinese soldiers to put on traditional Tibetan dress and carry the flags in their place.”
Authorities said afterward that seven Kanlho counties would be required to participate in future parades, the source said, adding that four districts of Tsoe—Tsoe Dentro, Dzoege To, Khagya To, and Dokar—were forced to take part this year.
Tibetans living under Chinese rule often chafe at forced displays of loyalty to Beijing and stage protests asserting Tibetan national and cultural identity.
On May 2, a 16-year-old student from a farming family named Chagdor Kyab set himself on fire near Kanlho’s Bora monastery, calling out for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama while he burned.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.