China imposed “intense restrictions” in Tibetan areas of the western provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan this month during religious gatherings celebrating the Lunar New Year, sources in the region said.
At Kumbum monstery in Qinghai’s Tsoshar (in Chinese, Haidong) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, authorities deployed large numbers of armed police and conducted exercises “to intimidate the monks and other Tibetans in the area,” one local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“And on the last day of the Chotrul Monlam festival on Feb. 22, police carrying weapons merged with the crowd,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“This caused great inconvenience to the devotees who had gathered at the monastery,” he said.
Government workers in Tibetan areas were instructed to monitor Tibetan activities “both day and night” during the Monlam festival, which is held each year for two weeks following the first day of the New Year, a second local source told RFA.
“They were also ordered not to take time off, except under emergency circumstances,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“This year was a special occasion when the Lunar New Year, or Losar, was observed by both Tibetans and Chinese only one day apart,” the source said.
“And Feb. 22, the fifteenth day of the New Year, was observed both in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and in the traditional Tibetan areas of Kham and Amdo.”
“This led to widespread celebrations of the Chotrul Monlam festival,” he said.
Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan-populated regions of China have frequently become the focus of efforts to promote not just religion but Tibetan cultural values, and Chinese security forces often monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds.
Annual public assemblies at the monasteries have greatly increased in size in recent years, as thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their national identity in the face of Beijing’s cultural and political domination.
Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.