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Troops surround monastery after monks protest ban on religious festival

(TibetanReview.net, Mar 04, 2009) — Chinese troops surrounded Sey monastery in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) County of Sichuan Province on Mar 1 after some 600 of its monks staged a protest rally in response to the authorities’ ban on them from holding their annual Monlam prayer service. In a repeat of an incident which took place at Kirti Monastery, located some 1.5 km away, on Feb 27, the monks gathered for their prayer service on Mar 1 morning, only to be slapped with a ban order. Angered by it, the monks staged a protest march towards Ngaba town, shouting demands to be allowed to observe the Monlam prayer ceremony and calling for the release of prisoners from Ngaba, reported the International Campaign for Tibet (DC) Mar 1.

As the monks, reported to number anywhere from around 50 to hundreds, marched on, armed police arrived and stopped them when they reached a petrol pump located just before a bridge leading to Ngaba market. The location was the opposite side of town to the crossroads where the Kirti monk Tapey had set himself on fire on Feb 27.

Following this development, the monks returned to their monastery, to be followed by the troops. The monastery was soon surrounded by troops and kept under lockdown.

The Monlam (Great Prayer) Festival falls on the 4th to 11th day of the 1st Tibetan month, just after Losar, the Tibetan New Year. It was established in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. China banned it during the Cultural Revolution, and again in 1990. Thousands of monks (of the three main monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Ganden) traditionally used to gathered for chanting prayers and performing religious rituals at the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.

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