Lhasa authorities reinforce Dalai Lama birthday celebration ban (TIN)

Tibet Information Network News in Brief

London, 10 August (TIN) - The Lhasa authorities issued a public notice in June reinforcing the ban on celebrations of the Dalai Lama's birthday, stating that Tibetans were not permitted to "give prayers and blessings" for the Dalai Lama or to "eulogise his merits and virtue". Activities to mark the Dalai Lama's birthday on 6 July, known as "Trunglha Yarsol" in Tibetan, have been officially banned throughout the 1990s. The notice, published and distributed in Lhasa, highlighted the autho Color rities' aim to prevent Tibetans from gathering to perform the traditional lha sol ritual - throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) in the air and burning incense in celebration of the birthday. It has been translated by TIN and appears below.

In the public notice the authorities focus on the "consolidation of the achievements" made in banning the "illegal activities of Trunglha Yarsol" - a reference to the security measures that have been implemented over the past two years to crack down on the celebrations. Restrictions on Trunglha Yarsol were tightened in 1999 when an incense-burning stove normally used for the birthday celebrations in the eastern suburbs of Lhasa was reportedly destroyed by the authorities and access to the site was blocked. A rally was held following the birthday to commend officials on their handling of "Trunglha Yarsol" rituals (Tibet TV 2 August 1999). Measures to prevent the celebrations were even more stringently enforced in 2000. Tibetan government workers and cadres in Lhasa were reportedly discouraged from burning incense even in their own homes and security personnel were stationed around incense-burners in the Tibetan area around the Barkor. A circular was issued on 26 June 2000 stating: "The government will take necessary action towards this illegal occasion and therefore it is expected that people will not participate".

The stringent enforcement of the ban in recent years indicates the authorities' preoccupation with "stability" and countering "splittism" in Tibet and their concerns over potential political disturbances at such occasions. The circular issued in 2000 stated that the "Dalai clique" had been "instigating various disturbances in parts of Tibet, relying on pretexts such as the celebration of Trunglha Yarsol to try to split the motherland". The ban is also an important element of the political campaign to undermine the influence of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. This has included vitriolic attacks in the press, which challenge the Dalai Lama's religious authority as well as his political status and views, widespread ideological campaigns and a ban since 1996 on publication and commercial distribution of his picture. The authorities state that the Dalai Lama and Western "hostile forces" represent one of the main obstacles to "progress" in the region; according to Hong Kong news agency Zhongguo Tongxun She, Legchog, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said yesterday (9 August): "The Dalai clique is the greatest obstacle to Tibet's economic development and social progress".

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Note: The Public Notice, dated 25 June 2001, originally appeared in both Chinese and Tibetan languages. The following translation is from the Chinese. Copies of the original Chinese and Tibetan language documents can be viewed on the TIN website:

http://www.tibetinfo.net/publications/docs/tibetan.htm http://www.tibetinfo.net/publications/docs/chinese.htm

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Public Notice of Lhasa Municipal People's Government regarding consolidation of the achievements of banning the illegal activities of ''Trunglha Yarsol'' in accordance with the law and of safeguarding social stability

In accordance with the written instructions of the Centre and the arrangements of the TAR Party Committee, Lhasa municipal people's government has already banned, in accordance with the law, the illegal activities of ''Trunglha Yarsol''. In order to continue to consolidate the achievements gained by banning the illegal activities of ''Trunglha Yarsol'' according to law, to go one step further in safeguarding social stability, and to ensure the smooth implementation of reform and opening up and modernisation construction, we hereby announce the following relevant items and regulations:

1. The people's government and politico-legal, public security and other such functional departments at every level must, in accordance with the law, exercise their administrative powers, protect normal production, life, work, study, transportation [Ch: jiaotong] and public order and severely crack down on all illegal criminal activities that disrupt social stability, disturb public order or disrupt traffic order. The multitudes of cadres, workers and masses of the whole municipality must conscientiously respect and vigorously support the work of the government and functional departments.

2. The people's government fully guarantees normal religious activities that are permitted by law and protects the freedom of religious belief of the broad masses of religious believers. [However] it is strictly forbidden for any person or mass organisation, in any form and in any place, to engage in or covertly engage in illegal activities such as congregating, burning incense and throwing tsampa to give prayers and blessings and eulogise his [the Dalai Lama's] merits and virtue in order to celebrate the Dalai Lama's birthday.[1]

3. Those who breach the ''Public Notice of Lhasa Municipal People's Government regarding banning the illegal activities of 'Trunglha Yarsol' in accordance with the law'', published on 26 June 2000, and [those who breach] the stipulations made in this ''Public Notice'' will be strictly punished by the politico-legal committees and public security departments in accordance with laws and regulations including ''Regulations on public security administration and punishments of the People's Republic of China'' and ''Regulations on administration of roads and transportation of the People's Republic of China''. Cases where circumstances are serious and "The Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China" is violated will be investigated and responsibility for the crime affixed in accordance with the law.

4. To safeguard social stability and to ensure normal public order and traffic order is in the basic interests of the broad masses. The multitudes of cadres, workers, and masses of the whole municipality must conscientiously observe every stipulation of this ''Public Notice'' and act to safeguard the dignity of the law, the interests of the people, the unity of the nationalities and the unity of the motherland.

Notice is hereby given. Lhasa Municipal People's Government 25 June 2001

Note: [1] Yan jin ren he ren, ren he qun ti yi ren he xing shi zai ren he di fang cong shi huo bian xiang cong shi wei da lai qing he sheng ri, qi dao zhu fu, ge gong song de de ju ji, shao xiang, sa zan ba deng fei fa huo dong. An alternative translation of this sentence would indicate that the ban on prayers and blessings for the Dalai Lama and on eulogising his merits and virtue is not confined to the specific practice of Trunglha Yarsol activities. However, in this context, the narrower interpretation given here is considered more likely.