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Chinese Security Forces Swarm Festival at Tibetan Monastery

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Kunsang Tenzin and Lhuboom  |  Radio Free  Asia

Chinese police make a show of force at Kumbum monastery, Qinghai (courtesy of an RFA) listener)
Chinese police make a show of force at Kumbum monastery, Qinghai (courtesy of an RFA listener)

For the second year in a row, large numbers of Chinese security forces have been deployed during a major religious festival at a Tibetan monastery in Qinghai province in an apparent bid to intimidate worshippers, sources in the region say.

The prayer gathering, called Chotrul Monlam, is held each year at Kumbum monastery in Qinghai’s Tsoshar (in Chinese, Haidong) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and features the display of large and colorful sculptures made of butter, sources said.

“But on Feb. 11, the Chinese government sent a large number of uniformed paramilitary police to Kumbum in a show of intimidation,” one source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.  

“It is really inappropriate for such a show of force to be made during a religious gathering,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This has made the Tibetan pilgrims very uncomfortable, and has provoked anxiety and fear in the daily lives of ordinary Tibetans,” he added.

Also speaking to RFA, a second local source said that many Tibetans attending the event are now blocked by surging crowds from seeing the display of butter sculptures, with children and the elderly especially pushed aside.

“The security presence here is pervasive,” the source said.

Chinese visitors paying 100 yuan (U.S.$14.54) for tickets are meanwhile being allowed to view the display without waiting, “while Tibetan pilgrims are being held further down the road and have to wait in long lines,” one source said.

Similar scenes last year

Similar scenes took place at Kumbum last year after Chinese authorities deployed large numbers of armed police and conducted exercises “to intimidate the monks and other Tibetans in the area,” sources said in earlier reports.

“And on the last day of the Chotrul Monlam festival on Feb. 22, police carrying weapons merged with the crowd,” one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This caused great inconvenience to the devotees who had gathered at the monastery,” he said.

Buddhist monasteries in Tibetan-populated regions of 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.

Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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