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China cites Covid concerns to reduce devotees’ visiting-hours to Jokhang, Lhasa, only to let in more tourists

(TibetanReview.net, May19’21) – Apparently in keeping with its May 9 order to the Tibetan people to restrict their religious activities during the holy month of Saga Dawa (the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar marking the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha), China has sharply cut the number of daily hours they are allowed to visit the Jokhang Temple, a must-visit site for the devotees in Tibet’s ancient capital Lhasa.

The cutback has been made in the name of Covid-19 precaution but cynically the authorities have then extended the number of hours for tourist-visits to the holy site.

Beginning May 19, Buddhist worshippers may enter the Jokhang from 8:00 am to 11:30 am, while tourists coming mainly from China may visit from 12:00 noon to 7:30 pm, the Tibetan Service of rfa.org May 18 cited a May 17 notice issued by the Tsuglakhang Temple Management group as saying.

The report did not say what the visiting hours for devotees and tourists were before May 19.

The Jokhang Temple is home to the famous life-size Jowo Shakyamuni statue of the Buddha and is part of the Tsuglakhang monastic complex.

The report noted that tourism had seen a surge in Tibet recently, with a total of 706,700 tourists entering the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) during the May 1 holiday period. Their arrivals from China by train were reported to have increased 20% and by air by 28% during this year’s first quarter, TAR officials and Chinese media sources were cited as saying.

China appears to be using measures to protect the public health as a “pretext to continue reducing space for Tibetan Buddhists to practice their faith during this holy month,” said Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) while reporting on the May 9 religious restrictions order for the holy month.

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