China strengthens Anti-Dalai Lama campaign (TCHRD) Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy 13 July 2001

Lhasa, the capital city of Chinese-occupied Tibet, witnessed renewed restrictions on the age-old traditional celebration of Trunglha Yarsol (the Dalai Lama's birthday) this year. The Chinese authorities, as a part of various checkrein measures, distributed official circulars "illegalising" Trunglha Yarsol, issued threats and arbitrarily arrested and detained Tibetans just two days prior to the actual celebration.

A circular titled "Strengthening Abolition of the Illegal Activities of Trunglha Yarsol Celebration and Protection of Social Stability" issued by the Chinese Government on 24 June 2001, applauds their success in curbing the earlier birthday celebrations and re-affirms their stand against such "illegal activities" in the future. Hundreds of Tibetans from Lhasa Region alone were reportedly arrested on 4 July 2001, under the guise of "Strike Hard" campaign which was re-launched in April this year, and subsequently detained for a short duration. Majority of these Tibetans has had alleged political proclivity as opposed to "criminal offence" against which the campaign was targeted. "The arbitrary nature of their arrest clearly demonstrates not only the authorities' obsession to control any political activities that might arise during the birthday but also reveals how the Chinese Government tramples upon religious freedom of the Tibetans by smothering their faith and belief in their ancient religion", stated Mr. Lobsang Nyandak Zayul, the Executive Director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. The circular that makes high claim about guaranteeing normal religious activities and protecting religious freedom, also has a contradictory provision that categorically prohibits any individual or organisation from celebrating Trunglha Yarsol. Activities such as prayers, incense-burning ceremony, and throwing tsampa (roasted barley) during the birthday are considered as "illegal". It further stipulated that Department of Justice and Department of Public Security will impose punishment on those individuals found guilty of infringement of the said law according to the rules of People's Republic of China (PRC) Security Control Measure and Transportation Control Measure. Moreover, those who commit gross violation of the order would be severely dealt with according to PRC's Criminal Procedure Law.

Every year on 6 July, Tibetans in Lhasa congregate at Trunglha Village, Ngachen Township, Lhasa Metropolitan, and perform incense-burning ceremony and throw tsampa (roasted barley) in the air as a part of the festivities to mark the occasion. As per information given by a recent arrival, Lhasa PSB officials kept close vigil on various picnic spots in the region this year. Approximately 16 Tibetan youths were fined with 500 yuan each, when they were found picnicking at Karma Kunsang Park, located in the south of Lhasa. The youths, who were on a five-day picnic, had no prior intention to celebrate Trunglha Yarsol. Their revelry was stopped mid-way nonetheless and no receipt was issued for the imposed fine.

The ban against the celebration became effective from 26 June 2000 when Lhasa Municipality Industrial and Commercial Bureau issued a circular titled "Concise Information About Lhasa City People's Government Abolition of the Illegal Celebration of Trunglha Yarsol". The circular censured Trunglha Yarsol as against law and henceforth banned the observance of the occasion. It also accused the "Dalai clique" of "instigating disturbances in various parts of Tibet, relying on pretexts like the celebration of Trungkha Yarsol to try to split the motherland". The government offices and bodies circulated copies to all monasteries including the three major seats of Sera, Drepung and Gaden, various departments and schools, and regional party committees, and specifically prohibited Tibetan officials and party members from participating in the "illegal activities". Should any untoward incidents happen, heads of the respective offices were warned to hold responsibility.

The authorities at that time, enforced restrictions on the movement of incoming Tibetans and subjected them to unwanted harassment as preventive measure against any potential activities deemed as "endangering state security". In August of the same year, not only did Tibetan residents of Lhasa give a strong riposte to the circular but defy the official orders by taking up activities for birthday celebration for the next and subsequent year.

China's Tibet policy, more particularly that of the Dalai Lama factor in the Tibet issue, has taken a hard-line direction with the Third Work Forum on Tibet held in the year 1994. The forum identified the Dalai Lama as "serpent's head" which must be "chopped off" in order to kill the serpent. Since then, the polemical attack against the Dalai Lama has gained monstrous proportion. The monks and nuns, after being subjected to frequent political indoctrination, are forced to parrot Chinese version of history and oppose the Dalai Lama. Tibetans, both laity and monastic community, continue to face arrest and other related punishments for non-conformity to official anti-Dalai Lama campaign such as ban against display of the Dalai Lama's photograph and his birthday celebration.