17/01/2021

Forcing silence in Tibet as Dalai Lama receives US Congressional Gold Medal

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There are credible reports on the arrest of a monk of Drepung Monastery, five people in Labrang Tashikyil Monastery and two other from Kardze region of Tibet for celebrating the US Congressional Gold Medal Award to the Dalai Lama despite severe restriction and control imposed by the Chinese authorities, according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

Hundreds of Tibetans in their best attire converged early in the morning at Lingkor Road and Barkhor Street in Lhasa for customary observance of Sangsol(incense burning prayer that involve throwing tsampa in the air for success and good fortune) and visited monasteries in large number to offer prayers despite Chinese authorities imposition of severe restriction and vigilance in Tibet ahead of and during the US Congressional Gold Medal Award ceremony for the Dalai Lama on 17 October. The place adorn a festive atmosphere with people from all walks of life gathered for a kind-of picnic to celebrate the day, according to the information received by the Centre.

Earlier on 16 October, dozens of Drepung monks had begun repainting the exterior of a hall assigned as the residence of the Dalai Lama with whitewash to exhibit their joy after US Congress decided to award it’s highest civilian honor to the Dalai Lama. However, the Chinese authorities came to stop the activities in the monastery. In the morning of 17 October, when monks resumed painting auspicious symbols inside the Drepung Monastery, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) Officers moved in to stop the monks resulting in violent scuffles between the monks and the officers which left a monk with injured head. There was also report of arrest of a monk from Drepung Monastery during the celebration of the award.

According to one report, a large contingent of around three thousand armed police surrounded the Drepung Monastery to carry out the round-the-clock vigilance of the Monastery and refused to allow anyone to enter and leave the monastery. In addition, strict checking were done to restrict people’s movements at the road leading from west of Lhasa towards Lhasa city. Similar bans and restrictions were imposed at the Nechung Monastery located below the Drepung Monastery and at the Sera Monastery situated north of Lhasa City.

According to sources inside Tibet, a large contingent of People’s Armed Police (PAP) and PSB officers were present at the major roads particularly at the famous Barkhor Street in Lhasa. Additional surveillance cameras were installed around the city to identify the people attending the Sangsol (incense burning prayer) and to monitor whether any ethnic Tibetan government employees are participating in the prayer as they are banned from participating in religious activities.

In a similar incident, a monk and four laypersons were arrested while celebrating the US Congressional Award to the Dalai Lama in Amdo Labrang Tashikyil Monastery in Sangchu County, Kanlho “Tibet Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAP’), Gansu Province. The five persons were arrested following offering of Sangsol Prayer and bursting firecrackers in celebration of the award to the Dalai Lama. There were also reports of two Tibetans having been arrested from Othok Village, Lithang County, Kardze “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAP’) on 17 October following hoisting prayer flags and for offering Sangsol prayer for the Dalai Lama, who received the US highest civilian award. Although the Centre could not ascertain their identities, however, we will continue to monitor the situation inside Tibet and conditions of those arrested by the Chinese authorities.

The centre has reported a severe imposition of restriction and heightened vigilance prior to the award ceremony. Despite the restriction and vigilance, Tibetan people across the three traditional Tibetan provinces risked arrest and detention by celebrating the day with prayer and festivities. Although it was reported that there has been little space for celebration in remote Tibetans areas, however, it was not the case in bigger towns and cities where severe restrictions and bans were imposed by the local authorities to prevent celebration.

These heightened measures and restrictions have resulted in violation of fundamental human rights of Tibetans in Tibet by arbitrarily arresting them for offering prayers and celebration in honor of their spiritual leader-the Dalai Lama. TCHRD expresses its serious concern on the whereabouts and the condition of those arrested and condemns in strongest terms for violating the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Chinese constitution and major international human rights covenants and treaties which she is party to.