China Restricts Tibetan Observances in Lhasa During Buddhist Holy Month

Government employees, schoolchildren, and retirees are ordered not to take part, a local source says.

Chinese police patrol in front of the Potala Palace in Tibet's capital Lhasa in a file photo.

Chinese authorities are closely monitoring religious observances in the Tibetan regional capital Lhasa during the Buddhist holy month of Saga Dawa, forbidding government workers and students from participating in traditional gatherings, according to a source in Tibet.

“The Chinese authorities in Lhasa are ordering Tibetan government employees, schoolchildren, and their parents to avoid group religious activities during the holy month of Saga Dawa,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Even government retirees are being targeted by this ban on religious worship,” the source said.

Saga Dawa, which falls on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, commemorates the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment, and is traditionally celebrated in Buddhist countries around the world.

“Usually, the Tsuglhakhang and the Barkhor are buzzing with devotional activity during this holy month,” the source said, referring to the central temple square and public market area in Lhasa’s old town.

“But now, the numbers of government employees and students participating in festivities and religious gatherings are much smaller than in previous years,” the source said.

Lhasa’s monasteries are also being watched by police “in the name of maintaining security,” he added.

Police are now checking the identification of ordinary Tibetans and pilgrims walking devotional circuits around the ring roads of the Barkhor and the Potala, the winter palace of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the source said.

“But even under this heightened security, the common people in Lhasa are persisting in engaging in religious activity during the holy month."

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.