Authorities in northwest China’s Qinghai province are restricting travel in Tibetan-populated areas ahead of the start of Lunar New Year, called Losar by Tibetans, later this month, Tibetan sources say.
The move includes a 10:00 p.m. curfew in the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) and Matoe (Maduo) counties imposed in the name of “social stability” and “sanitation,” a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in the region.
“Security personnel have been dispatched to restaurants, hotels, internet cafes, and all places of recreation,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Anyone caught out after curfew risks punishment, including imprisonment and severe physical abuse,” he said.
“[Police] are also checking everyone’s identification card,” he added.
Matoe county in particular is an important hub of local transportation and travel by Tibetans in Qinghai, Swiss-based former Tibetan political prisoner Golog Jigme said, adding, “And armed police and other security personnel are often stationed there ahead of important cultural and religious festivals.”
Authorities in northwestern China’s Gansu province have meanwhile imposed restrictions on travel to and from an important Tibetan monastery ahead of a major prayer festival, Jigme told RFA in an earlier report.
Labrang Tashi Kyil monastery’s annual Monlam Chenmo festival, which typically draws large numbers of participants, will begin on February 15, the third day of Losar celebrations, but is barred this year to visitors not wearing face masks, and entry is forbidden to private vehicles, Jigme said.
Authorities have cited fears of a spread of COVID-19 in imposing their restrictions, Jigme said, “But in reality, the crackdown is aimed at the soon-to-be-observed great Monlam Chenmo religious festival itself.”
Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and Tibetan-populated provinces of western China have frequently become the focus of efforts to promote not just religion but Tibetan cultural values, and Chinese security forces often monitor and sometimes close down events involving large crowds.
Annual public assemblies at the monasteries have greatly increased in size in recent years, as thousands of Tibetans gather to assert their national identity in the face of Beijing’s cultural and political domination.
Reported by Lobe Socktsang for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.