Friday, June 5, 2009

China intensifies restriction on religious activities during holy month in Tibet

Chinese government has stepped up restrictions on the religious activities of Tibetans in the capital Lhasa as they observe the Buddhist holy month of Saka Dawa, according to a report on Tibetan Government-in-Exile website.

Tibetan Buddhists believe during Saka Dawa, the fourth month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar, the karmic results of virtuous and non-virtuous actions are magnified. In Dharamsala, the seat of Tibetan Government-in-Exile in India, hundreds of Tibetan Buddhists, including monks and nuns, have been regularly gathering and offering prayers at the Tsuglag-khang, the main Tibetan temple here, from May 25 that marked the beginning of the holy month.
Meanwhile, the concerned government offices in Lhasa had convened meetings of staff members and people under their respective jurisdictions and subsequently issued strict orders, particularly to students and government officials not to visit temples during the festival, sources in Tibet informed the exile government.
The restrictions come ahead of Saka Dawa festival, which is celebrated on the 15th (full moon) day of the fourth Tibetan month, when hundreds and thousands of Tibetan Buddhists flock to holy sites to offer prayers and engage in meritorious spiritual activities. The annual festival celebrates the three most important events of the life of Lord Buddha - his birth, enlightenment and parinirvana. The report said the normal life of people in Lhasa has been affected as the Chinese government has sent in more security forces and deployed a large number of intelligence officials across the city.
The authorities also are carefully examining the details of foreign tourists visiting the region, the report said. Part of the investigation also includes asking questions about whether any member of a family who had earlier visited India or anyone who has now returned to Tibet, it added.According to the report, those families who have relatives and children in India and in other foreign countries are being asked to provide their conditions and contact details.Starting from March 2008, the concerned offices have conducted at least eight rounds of such investigations and more than ten times by the village committees, the report cited sources as saying.Such intensified restrictions were not new in Tibet under Chinese rule.
Restrictions and prohibitions are regularly imposed on religious ceremonies and sensitive anniversaries. Apart from politically sensitive anniversary like March 10 Tibetan Uprising Day, China has also acted with equally heightened vigilance during mass occasions like Losar (Tibetan New Year), Monlam Chenmo (The Great Prayer Festival), Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai lama and the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and other similar events.

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