Chinese authorities are closely watching government employees and students in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa during the Buddhist holy month of Saga Dawa, forbidding them from participating in traditional religious gatherings, according to sources in Tibet.
Saga Dawa, which falls on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar and began this year on May 23, commemorates the Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment, and is traditionally celebrated in Buddhist countries around the world.
Though Lhasa’s famous Jokhang Temple and other religious sites are now open to the public, “students, government workers, and persons drawing a state pension are not allowed to take part in religious events,” one resident of the city told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Parents of Tibetan schoolchildren have likewise been warned in meetings with Chinese officials not to permit their children to attend religious ceremonies during Saga Dawa, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Authorities have warned that Communist Party members, government workers, and students who are found to have attended religious ceremonies will face severe consequences,” the source said.
“Police activity in Lhasa is also increasing at this time,” he added.
“During the initial outbreak of coronavirus in Lhasa, the schools in Tibet were all closed for a considerable time,” a second source in Lhasa said.
Lhasa area schools have meanwhile finally opened following a long period of shut-down owing to fears of the spread of coronavirus in the city, another source in Lhasa told RFA.
“During the initial outbreak of coronavirus in Lhasa, the schools in Tibet were all closed for a considerable time,” the source, a parent of schoolchildren said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“Gradually, the schools reopened, but the kindergartens and day care centers mostly stayed closed, opening again only on May 25,” he said.
Authorities in Tibetan-populated areas of China have long sought to restrict the influence on children of Tibetan Buddhist religion, traditionally a focus of Tibetan cultural and national identity, sources in the region say.
Reported by Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.