Tibetan villagers celebrating the Lunar New Year in western China’s Sichuan province have committed themselves to good behavior in their communities, pledging themselves to nonviolence and turning weapons over to a local monastery to be destroyed, sources said.
Valued possessions handed over in the March 5 observance at Dzakhok Samdrub monastery in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture included “pistols, rifles, and a variety of other weapons,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The Tibetans surrendered their weapons voluntarily and took a vow to give up harming others,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They did this during the celebration of the Chotrul Monlam prayer festival on the fifteenth day of the Tibetan Lunar New Year, or Losar, and dedicated the merit of their resolution and vows to the long life of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama,” he said.
Tibetans living in northwestern China’s Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces have openly celebrated the 80th birth year of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama during this Losar period, combining public and private observances with traditional New Year celebrations.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed national uprising against Chinese occupation in 1959, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
At the March 5 ceremony at Dzakhok, “many Tibetans vowed also to abstain from gambling and fighting, and promised to give up the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and snuff,” RFA’s source said.
Tibetans visiting nearby Kardze monastery during the festival were closely watched by hundreds of Chinese paramilitary police, the source said.
“These were posted at major traffic circles and intersections in the main county town.”
“We have also received word of large security deployments in Draggo [Luhuo] and Tawu [Daofu] counties and in the area of Choru,” he said.
Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan-populated regions of China have frequently become the focus of efforts to promote not just religion but Tibetan national and cultural values, according to Tibetan sources.
Annual public assemblies at the monasteries have greatly increased in size in recent years, as thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their cultural identity in the face of Beijing’s cultural and political domination.
Reported by Sonam Wangdu for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.