(TibetanReview.net, Feb11’21) – China routinely imposes unannounced new restrictions in Tibet’s capital Lhasa ahead of February and March each year when Tibetans celebrate their New Year, called Losar; hold large religious gatherings; and also remember the anniversary of their 1959 national uprising. This time the authorities have found an excuse in the Covid-19 infection for ordering the closing of temples in the city.
“They’ve closed Potala Palace, Tsuglakhang Temple, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery… These restrictions and random searches have spread to other areas in the eastern parts of Tibet too,” the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Feb 10 quoted Ngawang Woebar, a former political prisoner who now lives in exile, as saying, citing sources in Tibet.
“There are many religious activities that we perform prior to and during the Tibetan New Year, but these have all been denied by the Chinese government,” he was quoted as saying.
“Usually, we go to Tsuglakhang Temple on the first day of Losar to celebrate and perform our religious activities for the New Year, but this year there are notices that the temples will remain closed, so we have no choice,” the report quoted a Tibetan resident as saying, declining to be named for safety reasons.
The report also quoted an ethnic Chinese who runs a restaurant in Lhasa as saying, “All the monasteries and temples in Lhasa will remain closed during Losar.”
Tibetan Losar falls on Feb12 this time, as does the Chinese Spring Festival.
The Potala palace will open during Losar, but visiting hours will be limited from 9:30 am to noon, with guests being required to acquire a visitor’s pass a day before his visit, the reported cited the palace’s management committee as saying.
Tibet Autonomous Region has been free of coronavirus except for a single case of a visitor from China who was treated and discharged from hospital in Feb 2020. Even in Wuhan, the pandemic’s original epicentre, there are no such restriction today.