Officials in western provinces of China are confiscating the passports of Tibetans authorized to travel abroad, meanwhile ordering other Tibetans to return home, in a bid to reduce attendance at a ceremony to be conducted next year in India by the Dalai Lama, sources say.
Government officials in Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu are now visiting the homes of Tibetan passport holders to collect the documents, saying that new seals must be affixed, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“They say the passports will be returned once the newly required seals of township and village authorities are in place,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Speaking separately, a second Tibetan source said the move may be aimed at preventing Tibetans from attending a religious gathering conducted in India by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
“Many Tibetans fear that this is an attempt by [Chinese] authorities to stop Tibetans who intend to travel to attend the Kalachakra teachings in India in January,” the source said.
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 the Dalai Lama, who is widely reviled by Chinese leaders as a “splittist” seeking to separate Tibet from Beijing’s control.
Though Tibetan passports are now being collected across Tibetan-populated areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu, “those whose passports bear visas for business travel are exempt from the confiscation, and their passports are not being seized,” RFA’s source said.
Ordered to return home
Tibetans already traveling in Nepal are meanwhile being ordered to return home, a third source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Recently, a group of Tibetans holding legal Chinese travel documents arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, intending to visit various pilgrimage sites in Nepal and India,” RFA’s source said.
“They were also planning to attend the Kalachakra teachings in Bodh Gaya in January 2017.”
“However, their relatives back home called them in Nepal and told them to return immediately, telling them that Chinese officials had come to their homes to order their return,” the source said, adding that officials had threatened the travelers’ families.
“They also said that the government officials who had vouched for the passport holders could lose their jobs,” he said.
“My own passport is not [stamped] for visiting India,” another Tibetan source told RFA.
“The Chinese authorities suspect that we will just go anyway to attend the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teachings, but this isn’t true,” he said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.