Chinese authorities in Sichuan’s Kardze prefecture are launching a new drive against display by Tibetans of photos of the Dalai Lama, threatening cut-offs of state aid for anyone found in possession of the banned images, Tibetan sources say.
The campaign, targeting Dza Wonpo township in the Kardze (Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Sershul (Shiqu) county, began with a May 17 public meeting in which Tibetans were forced to sign a document pledging not to keep or circulate photos of the exiled spiritual leader, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Officials announced that anyone found possessing or displaying images of the Dalai Lama will be liable to criminal prosecution,” RFA’s source said, citing contacts in Kardze and speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They were also warned that anyone found with the banned photos will be cut off from any financial support or other assistance they receive from the government,” the source said.
Authorities recently inspected a local old-age home on the pretext of cleaning the facility and confiscated a number of the banned photos, giving facility residents pictures of China’s president Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders to put up in their place, he said.
“Area residents are also being required to download an app on their phones, giving officials access to all the user’s data,” the source said, adding, “This is definitely meant to support closer scrutiny of owners’ messaging,” he said.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country and annexed it by force in 1950, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been harshly punished in the past.
Already tightly restricted following widespread protests in Tibetan regions in 2008, Dza Wonpo’s local monastery drew increased police attention in 2012 when monks refused to host Chinese national flags on the monastery’s roofs.
An ensuing crackdown led to scores of arbitrary detentions, arrests, and searches of Tibetan homes, and sporadic protests, including the scattering of leaflets calling for Tibetan independence, have continued in Dza Wonpo since then.
Reported by Pema Ngodup for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.