Chinese police have been deployed in large numbers over the weekend Tibet’s Jokhang Temple in Lhasa as Buddhist pilgrims flock to the area to celebrate the religious events Gaden Nga Choe and Shichoed, sources in the Tibetan regional capital say.
Worshipers were under tight security during the event, which commemorates the life of a revered teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, Je Tsongkhapa on the anniversary of the day he died in 1419.
“For the two day celebration, the Chinese police have demonstrated a show of force and power to intimidate the people,” a pilgrim told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“It was very disappointing,” the pilgrim said.
“People celebrate this religious festival on the 25th [day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar (Dec 2 in 2018)],” the source said, adding, “[They] light butter lamps, practice purification and accumulation, and make special aspirational prayers.”
Gaden Nga Choe falls one day before Shichoed, the day in which Jamchen Choeje Yeshi, who founded the Sera Monastery and one of Tsonghkapa’s main disciples, died in 1443. The two days combined have come to be observed as a major religious event.
Another source familiar with the situation at the temple told RFA, “On both days of the celebration, Tibetans, both from Lhasa and other areas congregated in both Jokhang Temple and the surrounding Barkhor Street in the evening.”
“They prostrated and lit butter lamps for the accumulation of good merits,” the source said.
“But the Chinese government sent officers from the public security bureau along with armed police in plain clothes to keep an eye on the crowd. Tibetans were only allowed to go into the temple under close watch,” the source added.
“[Seemingly] infinite numbers of worshipers began been giving offerings and lighting lamps on the evening of the 24th and well into the 25th, and continued well after midnight, but the Chinese police have maintained their presence with no sign of letting up,” said the source.
Another source in Tibet said, “The Chinese government explained that the heavy police presence is necessary for public safety and isn’t meant to intimidate.”
“But in reality, while the police do allow people to worship, they are very strict and can strike at a moment’s notice if an incident occurs,” the source said.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.