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Chinese restrictions hamper Tibetan New Year celebrations

February 19, 2019

Radio Free Asia, February 8, 2019 - Chinese policies restricting Tibetan movements during this week’s start of Losar, the new lunar year, are casting a shadow over traditional celebrations, with police filling the streets of the regional capital Lhasa and government workers forbidden to visit monasteries, Tibetan sources say.

This year’s Losar was preceded by public speeches by Chinese officials urging Tibetans’ loyalty to Beijing and denouncing Tibetan government workers caught “harboring religious faith and worshipping in secret,” one Lhasa resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Under this atmosphere of intimidation and threat, there is no way to celebrate Losar with a sense of peace and joy,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I feel like leaving the city and going far away,” she said.

Restrictions hampering celebrations have also been put in place in other areas of the Tibet Autonomous Region by officials fearing disturbances by Tibetans unhappy with Chinese rule, RFA’s source said.

In Markham county, Chinese police have been sent into Tibetan neighborhoods “to assess the mood of the people and the situation on the ground, while in Chamdo city, a clampdown is under way to prevent possible incidents,” she said.

Also speaking to RFA, a source in Chamdo said that Tibetans working for Chinese government offices have been barred from visiting monasteries to worship during Losar, which began this year on Feb. 5 and will continue for ten days.

“But on the third day of the New Year, many of them defied the order by going to visit at the monasteries anyway,” the source said, also speaking on condition she not be named.

Meanwhile, in Sichuan’s Serthar county, Tibetan government workers have been required to report to work during the holiday, “so that they can’t go back to their hometowns for the traditional Losar celebrations,” the source said.

Other government workers have only been given short breaks from work, with others required to take their holidays before the start of the new year, she said.

“My own family members wanted to come from Lhasa to visit us in Chamdo but did not get holiday permission from their department until just the day before Losar," she said.

"And then the travel companies all closed down, and they couldn’t make it home."

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