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China bans religious gatherings in Tibet’s capital ahead of uprising anniversary

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(TibetanReview.net, Mar05’22) – China has banned all major religious activities in and around Tibet’s capital Lhasa during celebrations marking the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, which began on Mar 3, citing Covid-19 concerns. However, the whole of Tibet Autonomous Region has been free from the Covid infection thus far, except for one detected in a Chinese visitor at the beginning of the pandemic’s outbreak two years ago, while China’s official media has highlighted the record numbers of visitors to the region in several recent reports.

The ban was announced in a Feb 22 notice by Lhasa’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, said the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Mar 4.

The report noted that the ban had come ahead of a period of politically sensitive Tibetan anniversaries falling in March, when authorities regularly tighten security in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas, fearing protests against Beijing’s rule.

The most significant of these anniversaries is, of course, the 63rd anniversary on Mar 10 of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese occupation rule which took place in Lhasa in 1959. It led to China bombarding the Dalai Lama’s Potala palace, the scrapping of the so-called 17-point agreement and the introduction of what it called democratic reforms in the occupied territory.

Another significant anniversary is the Mar 14, 2008 protests in Lhasa, which soon spread to almost the entire length and breadth of the Tibetan Plateau. It led to China clamping down with martial law, closing of the region from the outside world, and the killing, arresting, and jailing of thousands of Tibetans.

Citing a copy seen by it, as well as sources in Tibet and exile, rfa.org said the order especially applied to the Drepung, Sera, Ratreng, Sharbumpa, Sengling, Dakpo and the Tsuglakhang monasteries in and around the Tibetan capital.

“The notice bars Tibetans from performing all the major religious activities that are usually observed ahead of and during the New Year,” Ngawang Woebar, a former political prisoner now living in Dharamsala, India, ha said.

The report cited Tibetan living in Lhasa had earlier said Feb 27 that Chinese security forces had already been deployed around the city ahead of the politically sensitive anniversaries.

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