Security tight, monks detained as Olympic flame relayed through Gyalthang

16, June 24’08

The torch for the Olympic Games in Beijing passed through its first predominantly Tibetan inhabited area on Jun 11 when it was carried over a 6.5 km stretch in the tourist town of Shangri-la, formerly known as Zhongdian (Tibetan: Gyalthang) in Yunnan Province. It passed through Yunnan’s largest Tibetan Buddhist temple, Gedan Songzanlin (or Sumtseling), reported the DPA Jun 11.

It was the second time the torch was carried over a Tibetan area, after its Mt Everest ascend on May 8. Reuters Jun 11 said security around the flame was extremely tight. At a monastery on the outskirts of town, some Buddhist monks said they had been forbidden from leaving during the torch run, while others were made to attend a sutra reading session that lasted from 7 am until 3 pm – right when the torch was passing, the report said.

The dates and duration of the torch’s relay through Tibet Autonomous Region still remains uncertain. Although initially set to take place from Jun 19 to 21, it was later suggested that in the aftermath of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, the relay might be reduced to just one day, probably on Jun 18, in Lhasa. No dates and details have been announced for the torch’s passage through Qinghai and Sichuan provinces whose Tibetan-inhabited regions saw major protests in Mar 2008 and where tensions still simmer.

The Dalai Lama on Jun 12 reiterated his support for the holding of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and asked Tibetans in and outside Tibet not to disturb its torch relay when it passes through Lhasa. “We have fully supported the Olympic Games right from the beginning,” he told journalists during a media conference at the Sydney Olympic Park in Australia where he was giving five days of teachings on meditation. “Over a billion Chinese brothers and sisters feel very proud of it, we must respect this, therefore we should not disturb it,” the AFP Jun 12 quoted the Tibetan leader as saying.


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