Tibetan new year celebrations curbed by Chinese authorities
Restrictions put on Losar festivities in Tibet
Tibetans celebrating New Year (Losar) across Tibet have been faced with widespread obstruction and interference. We have received details of restrictions being imposed on Tibetans in the counties of Serthar, Markham and Chamdo, as well as in the capital Lhasa.
In several locations, including Serthar County in eastern Tibet, many government employees were denied holiday for the New Year and were also prohibited from visiting monasteries during Losar.
Tibetans working in government jobs were required to report to work during the New Year so they could not go back to their hometowns to celebrate. Other government employees in Serthar were allowed to take holiday before Losar but not on New Year’s Day itself.
Typically, for Tibetans, Losar celebrations involve temple visits, pilgrimages and social activities such as gatherings and feasts. Temple visiting is one of the most important parts of Tibetan New Year and it is this activity that has been specifically targeted.
Restrictions have been placed on specific monasteries. The Management Committee at Tsuklakhang (also known as Jhokhang) issued a notice which stated that nobody could visit the temple for four days prior to Losar because of preparatory work. Visiting hours were also limited to 24 hours on New Year’s Day despite Losar celebrations typically lasting 15 days.
A photo (see above), obtained by Tibet Watch, also shows police blocking the gate of the Tsuklakhang, in Lhasa, on Losar.
In Markham and Chamdo Counties, police and military personnel were stationed on the streets. Such a presence is not new in Tibet, where Chinese authorities often step up security around dates of religious or cultural significance such as Saga Dawa and the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
This sort of intimidation, alongside restrictions on festivities, are part of a broader strategy by the Chinese Communist Party to undermine Tibetan identity which it sees as a source of resistance to their one-party rule.