02/26/2009, 00.00
TIBET - CHINA
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Stores open for New Year's in protest of Chinese authorities

Tibet's biggest holiday has been observed just like any other day, in order to commemorate the Chinese repression and the many killed in 2008. The authorities are taking great pains to demonstrate that everyone is happy and celebrating, and the television is showing dances and banquets, but not the ranks of soldiers.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In Lhasa, it seems just like any other day, not the biggest Tibetan holiday. The people are saying that "there is no Losar [Tibetan new year]. They killed so many people last year."

In the biggest Tibetan cities, there is no sign of the usual celebrations, no crowds going to the monasteries. In Lhasa, it seems that there are more soldiers in the streets than faithful in the temples. Many monasteries have not even held the usual celebrations for Losar: in any case, they have been surrounded with Chinese soldiers, out of fear that new protests could break out at the temples. Many monks have been taken from their monasteries, and forced to participate in patriotic reeducation courses.

One inhabitant of Kardze recounts that "the authorities ordered all the stores to close the day before the Tibetan new year. But most of them opened early in the morning."

The Tibetans decided not to celebrate Losar because 2008 was a tragic year, because of the Chinese repression still underway. Another resident of Kardze tells Radio Free Asia that the Chinese authorities "offered the monasteries thousands of yuan to celebrate Losar. There are more than 30 monasteries and convents in Kardze. None of them accepted."

The Dalai Lama, in his message for Losar, recalled that "last year in Tibet we witnessed hundreds of Tibetans losing their lives, and several thousands facing detention and torture, in response to the widespread display by Tibetans all over Tibet of their discontentment with the Chinese authorities' policies."

For its part, the state news agency Xinhua has described a population celebrating like any other year, with performances and banquets. It has published rosy interviews about the harmony and serenity in the area. The television has shown fireworks and the traditional dances in costume, amid cheering crowds.

But Beijing has not explained why it has closed the area to foreign tourists, and has sent tens of thousands of extra soldiers there.

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