China hardening Tibet crackdown ahead of Olympics

29, Jan 30, 2008

In the aftermath of the presentation of the US Congressional Gold Medal on the Dalai Lama on Oct 17, 2007 and in the run up to Beijing Olympics 2008, China has imposed stringent new restrictions on Tibetan Buddhism and culture even as it has trained over 140 Tibetan youths to perform traditional dances at the Games, reported Radio Free Asia (RFA, Washington, DC) Jan 25. The youths have also been trained to condemn the Dalai Lama and praise Chinese rule, the report cited source as saying. Other groups, such as one in Kongpo, are also being trained for similar task for the Games, the report added.

A special meeting on Jan 13-14 of the Tibet Autonomous Region branch of Chinese People’s Political Conference presided over by Chairman Phagpalha Geleg Namgyal, along with Passang Dhondup and Dugkhang Thupten Khedup, discussed the use of “high lamas in different parts of Tibet to convince Tibetans about the splittist intention of Dalai Lama and his clique,” RFA quoted a source as saying.

“There’s an incredible increase in the inclination to read even the slightest incident as an attack by the Dalai Lama, or the ‘Dalai clique,’ on the state. In other words, they see these things as organized,” the report quoted Robbie Barnett, who teaches contemporary Tibetan studies at Columbia University in New York, as saying. He has said China began implementing “policies to control and restrict Tibetan culture and Tibetan religion in an aggressive way” in about 1992. “These involve cultural controls, restrictions, lowering the status of Tibetan language studies. They removed a lot of senior cultural figures and teachers, and they moved to control the monasteries through ‘patriotic education’.”

Authorities then encouraged Chinese to immigrate to Tibetan regions and boosted the economy through infrastructure development. “So these are security measures, but they’re done through policy means,” Barnett has said. The aim has been to target Tibetan culture and religion which China sees as sources of Tibetan nationalism. To implement this, especially trained Chinese cadres have been appointed even at the village level.

The new restrictions alleged by the report included ban on admitting new novice monks in monasteries to replace those who have died and a visible rarity in the number of monks appearing on the streets in many Tibetan cities. Prayer services both in temples and at private homes performed by monks is being not allowed, as also the circumambulation of temples and stupas, a Tibetan speaking in Kham dialect of eastern Tibet was cited as saying.

Tibetan government officials were reportedly not being allowed to wear Tibetan dress, or to maintain a prayer rooms and altars at home.


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