By Barbara Demick
Reporting from Beijing -- The Chinese government has a New Year's greeting
for Tibetans: Celebrate, or else.
The Tibetan New Year, or Losar, is normally the most festive holiday of the
year, when Tibetans burn incense, make special dumplings and set off
fireworks. But this year, Tibetans have declared a moratorium on celebrating
their own holiday, saying they will instead observe a mourning period for
people killed last year during protests against Chinese rule.
The 15-day holiday begins Wednesday, and as it approaches, tensions are
rising. In the last few weeks, the Chinese government has closed large
swaths of western China to foreign visitors -- not just Tibet itself, but
parts of provinces with large Tibetan populations.
Nearly a year after the violent demonstrations reportedly left more than 120
dead, Tibetans are trying a novel technique for nonviolent protest. "Say No
to Losar," as the campaign is called, was launched by Tibetan groups in
Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama's home in exile.
"Instead of the usual celebrations marked by singing, dancing and other
festivities, silence will be observed and butter lamps will be lit in the
temples and homes to pray for the deceased," they announced in a statement
The tactic appears to be driving Chinese authorities crazy. They're
countering with their own campaign of forced merriment, organizing concerts,
pageants, fireworks, horse races, archery competitions. They've declared a
one-week public holiday beginning today in Tibet and are offering free
admission to museums and parks.
The Communist Party in Tibet also gave vouchers worth $120 each to 37,000
low-income families to shop for the holidays.
To further tempt the 2.8 million Tibetans, state television will broadcast a
four-hour gala with 800 performers Tuesday night.
"They want to show that the Tibetan people are happy, that they have returned
to normal life. But by intervening, they're making them unhappy," said
Tsering Shayka, a Tibetan historian now living in Canada. "They are trying
to come up with gimmicks instead of solving the problem."
Robert Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University in New York, says that
Chinese efforts to push New Year's celebrations are likely to backfire.
"I think people will ask, 'Why is the Communist Party telling me what to do
in my own home?' " Barnett said.
At Beijing's Central University for Nationalities, Tibetan students who had
applied last year for permission to hold a Losar celebration informed the
university recently that they wished to cancel. But the university told them
that the party must go on, said a university source who asked not to be
quoted by name.
"Celebrating is compulsory," he said.
As the holiday nears, tensions are spilling into the open.
On Feb. 14, a 39-year-old Tibetan monk set off a furor when he walked through
a public market in the Tibetan plateau's Lithang county carrying a
photograph of the Dalai Lama and chanting, "No Losar." Hundreds of people
reportedly joined the protests, which continued into the next two days,
according to the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and
Democracy. The group said that Chinese police detained 21 people, some of
whom were badly beaten, and that the county has been locked down for the
Reports say that as many as 20,000 additional soldiers and paramilitary
troops have been deployed in Tibetan areas and that in Qinghai province,
village leaders were threatened with arrest if they urged people not to
celebrate the holiday.
Even among Tibetans, there is a vigorous debate about the campaign to boycott
Losar. The holiday, which dates back to pre-Buddhist times, is the most
beloved in the Tibetan calendar and involves elaborate rituals and meals.
Families traditionally make a soup with special dumplings in which they hide
various items -- chile pepper, wool, charcoal -- and family members read
their fortune by which dumpling they pick.
"The very idea that there won't be any Losar is, let's admit it, a little bit
like calling off Christmas in a Christian community," one Tibetan blogger
In addition to the tension over the holiday, next month will bring the
50-year anniversary of a failed anti-Chinese uprising, after which the Dalai
Lama fled to India. The date has traditionally been a trigger for protests
within Tibet, and this year might be especially tense because the Chinese
plan to mark the occasion with a celebration of what they are calling "Serf
Emancipation Day." The Chinese government says it liberated the Tibetans
from brutal feudal serfdom.
In a preemptive strike against another flare-up of violence, the Chinese have
held thousands of Tibetans at a detention center east of Lhasa, according to
bloggers in the Tibetan capital.
The Chinese also have launched a crackdown in Tibetan regions on out-of-town
visitors without residency permits. Foreign tourists have been banned until
at least April, people in the tourist industry said.
"It is going to be a very sensitive time. When the Tibetan New Year is
finished, then it will be the one-year anniversary of the riots," said a
Tibetan tour guide who asked not to be quoted by name.
He said foreigners would not be sold plane or train tickets if they tried to
get into Tibetan areas. "You can't get in if they don't want you in."
Nicole Liu and Eliot Gao of The Times' Beijing Bureau contributed to this
observe a mourning for those killed or harmed by the thugs in Tibet
<fyf...@gmail.com> wrote in message
> yes innocents to a point - part of the colinisation by imperialist facist
> china - chicom facists bear responsibility ultimately
If Tibet was not colonised and brutal exploited it would not have happened,
but the deaths are shamefull enough.
But its still unknown what really happened, they are a several versions of
it, but whats true?
There has not been a independent investigation. The most information was no
more than CCTV and Xinhua aggressive propaganda for the CCP.
"The CCP carefully staged the unrest in Tibet to deceive the world."
-- Ruan Ming, former advisor to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General