Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province have banned a traditional Tibetan religious gathering and horse-race festival after participants refused to fly the Chinese national flag at the events, sources in the region and in exile say.
The annual gathering, in which villagers burn juniper branches to propitiate mountain deities for timely rainfall and a good harvest, was to have been held at the beginning of August, with the horse race to follow on Aug. 5, a former Tibetan political prisoner now living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
The juniper-burning ceremony, called sang-sol, was organized by Dargye monastery in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, RFA’s source said, citing contacts in the region.
“But this year, the Chinese ordered the monastery and Tibetan villagers to fly Chinese flags from the monastery and from people’s homes, and the monks and the lay community refused to comply, saying this had never been done before,” he said.
“Authorities then prohibited the prayer gathering in retaliation,” he said.
The horse race and other cultural displays—including a lion dance and performances of traditional Tibetan opera-—were likewise banned, he said.
The monks and laity had already spent large sums of money to prepare for the events, he added.
Annual religious gatherings in Tibetan-populated regions of China 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.
Fearing possible protests against Chinese rule, security forces often monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds.
Reported by Sangye Dorje for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.