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Tibetans refuse to budge as China moves to restrict prominent Tibetan lama’s coveted Buddhist teaching to local residents only

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(TibetanReview.net, Sep15’23) – Religious freedom in Chinese ruled Tibet to the limited extent it is allowed is quintessentially local, whether it comes to getting the requisite permits and clearances to enrol in a monastic order or to attending important public teachings by prominent lamas. More than 100,000 devotees from across Qinghai, Sichuan and other places had gathered in Tsoe (Chinese: Hezuo) City of Kanlho (Gannan) Prefecture, Gansu Province, for a Kalachakra empowerment teaching, but the authorities have moved to turn away everyone other than those from the city, reported the Tibetan service of rfa.org Sep 14.

The report said many have stayed put and appeared to be likely to get away with it.

The much-sought after Tibetan Buddhist teaching is given only by a select few lamas and the Tsoe City event is to be presided over from Sep 15 to 17 by prominent lama Gungthang Rinpoche Lobsang Jamyang Geleg Tenpe Khenchen from Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in neighbouring Sangchu (Xiahe) county in the same province.

The report cited a Sep 10 directive issued by local authorities as saying the sermon “is only arranged for residents of Tsoe” and that there “are no arrangements made for Tibetan devotees coming to attend from other parts of Tibet.”

“To maintain the religious activities pertaining to Kalakchakra in order, and to keep everything in control including crowd and traffic, non-resident Tibetans will not be allowed to go near the teaching site,” the directive was quoted as saying. “Those [non-residents] who have already arrived are instructed to leave the premises.”

This meant that most of the massive numbers of Tibetan devotees who have already camped for the event have to return home in great disappointment.

“More than 100,000 Tibetan devotees have gathered for this Kalachakra but, besides residents, Tibetans coming from Qinghai, Sichuan and other parts of the region are not allowed to attend,” the report quoted a local Tibetan as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

“The Chinese authorities have barred Tibetans coming from other parts of Tibet from attending the teaching because they are fearful of such huge gatherings and are being cautious of possible demonstrations against the Chinese government,” the local Tibetan source has said.

The directive was stated to have followed an earlier order on the event in Jul 2023, when the authorities cancelled their previous authorization for it by saying it conflicted with the 70th anniversary celebrations of Gannan prefecture.

But this time, as the teaching event appeared to be set to go ahead, devotee from other places are said to be determined to stay put.

“The authorities have not been able to control and restrict them as per their directive,” the local source has said. “There are more than 100,000 devotees … who have come to attend the teaching and, in order to avoid any sort of conflict and commotion, I think that the government is now giving up on it.”

This is borne out by the fact that on Thursday (Sep 14), the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Hezuo City, which had originally posted the directive, appeared to have removed it from their website, with no explanation given, the report added.

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