China bans religious New Year gatherings in Tibetan capital Lhasa — Radio Free Asia

Chinese authorities have banned major religious activities at monasteries in and near Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa during the Lunar New Year, citing COVID-19 concerns. But critics call the move China’s further encroachment on Tibetan national religion and culture.

The ban announced in a Feb. 22 notice by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau in Lhasa comes ahead of a period of politically sensitive Tibetan anniversaries falling in March, when Chinese authorities regularly tighten security in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas. of China, fearing demonstrations against the regime in Beijing. .

The order, a copy of which was seen by RFA, affects the monasteries of Drepung, Sera, Ratreng, Sharbumpa, Sengling, Dakpo and Tsuglakhang, according to sources in Tibet and in exile. It also orders Tibetans to stay at home and avoid travel and gatherings during the Lunar New Year, called Losar, which started this year on March 3.

“The notice prohibits Tibetans from performing all major religious activities that are customarily observed before and during the New Year,” said Ngawang Woebar, a former political prisoner currently living in Dharamsala, India, seat of the Tibetan government in exile. , the Central Tibetan Administration. .

“The Chinese government also used the need to control the spread of COVID-19 as an excuse during Losar last year,” Woebar said. “But in reality, they are just taking these measures as a precaution as we approach the March 10th anniversary” of a nationwide uprising against Chinese rule, he added.

Speaking to RFA on February 27, a Tibetan living in Lhasa said Chinese security forces had already been deployed around the city.

“The Chinese government has sent a large number of police to monitor the movements of Tibetans in and around Lhasa City, and no one is allowed to visit the Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace or the Tsuglakhang for religious activities,” the RFA source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

A month of birthdays

On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest against Beijing’s tightening of political and military control over formerly independent Tibet, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed and the spiritual leader of the Tibet, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India.

And on March 14, 2008, a riot in Lhasa followed Chinese police’s four-day crackdown on peaceful Tibetan protests and led to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.

The riot sparked a wave of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule that spread to Tibetan-populated areas of China’s western provinces, and hundreds of Tibetans were arrested, beaten or shot dead as forces Chinese security forces suppressed the demonstrations.

China maintains tight control over Tibet, and Tibetans living in Tibet frequently complain about discrimination and human rights abuses by Chinese authorities and policies they claim are aimed at eradicating their national identity and cultural.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.