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Hundreds of Tibetans ordered to immediately return from pilgrimage sites

Tibetans are faced with harsh travel restrictions and intimidation as they set out to visit pilgrimage sites in India and Nepal

The Dalai Lama visiting the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya (2018)

The Dalai Lama visiting the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya (2018)

On 29 December 2018, Chinese authorities ordered hundreds of Tibetans, who had set out on their journey to pilgrimage sites in Nepal and India, to immediately return home.

Those who had purchased their plane tickets, worth around 6000 yuan each, were forced to cancel them, being refunded only 5000 yuan of the original price.

Pilgrims who had already left the country, despite having obtained all the necessary legal documents to travel, were ordered by the Tsolho and Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures’ authorities to return immediately.

Moreover, their families have been repeatedly contacted by the Chinese authorities and warned that if their family members fail to return within three days, they will face serious repercussions, including invalidation of their passports and a ban from re-entering Tibet.

This is not the first time that Chinese authorities have imposed similar restrictions on Tibetans traveling to pilgrimage sites.

In 2017, Tibetans wishing to travel to the Kalachakra ceremony, initiated by the Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya, experienced harsh intimidation.

At the time, punishments imposed on Tibetan pilgrims involved confiscation of their passports and the harassment of their families - including threats of losing their jobs, cancelling any government aid they had been entitled to, and even losing the ability to send their children to school.

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Another similar scenario happened again in March 2018, when Chinese authorities detained Tibetan pilgrims who visited spiritual sites in Nepal and India. Over 60 Tibetans were subjected to re-educational programs, severe beatings and were faced with harsh penalties including imprisonment.