China and Nepal crackdown to mark the Dalai Lama’s birthday
The authorities in Beijing and Kathmandu prevent Buddhists from celebrating the 75th birthday of the spiritual leader. China goes on the offensive: “"No matter who heads the 'exiled Tibetan government,' its illegal nature will not be altered”.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is 75 years old today. In order to prevent any popular celebration, the governments of China and Nepal have launched a massive crackdown. Stores in China’s Tibetan provinces have been forced to stay open, whilst Buddhists have been prevented from going to temples to pray. Still, the faithful have celebrated the day in secret, in the privacy of their homes.

“July 6th is the birthday of our leader,” said Jampal Monlam, an exiled Tibetan living in India. “However, Chinese authorities have boosted controls over Tibet and areas with Tibetan majorities to prevent any celebrations. Before 2000, the situation was slightly better. People who did not want to work to go to the temple could do so. That is no longer the case.”

“Still, every Tibetan knows what day it is today,” he added. “They’ll pray secretly in the privacy of their homes.”

Speaking to Radio Free Asia, a Tibetan woman said the same. “I’m aware of that [the day],” she said. “But there is no celebration at all. It is sensitive to talk about things like that here [in Lhasa],” she explained.

Nepal has followed China in cracking down. The authorities in Kathmandu took a series of harsh steps to prevent celebrations. Police stopped thousands of people from entering a school in the capital where a ceremony was scheduled to take place in honour of the Tibetan spiritual leader.

“Around 800 Tibetans attended,” said Tsewang Dolma, president of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress in Kathmandu. “There would have been thousands more had the authorities not been so strict,” he explained. “Many chose to stay home because they were scared.”

Police increased security measures yesterday to prevent anti-China demonstrations from Tibetan separatists. Nepal is under increasing pressure from Beijing to clamp down on activities that might threaten Chinese interests.

China itself has increased its crackdown on Tibetans fearing another wave of protest like the one of 1989 when monks were slaughtered as they protested against Communist rule.

In recent years, the Chinese Communist party has refused any form of dialogue with exiled Tibetan authorities. Even the Dalai Lama’s decision to relinquish all political power did not reduce tensions.

Yesterday, the People’s Daily wrote a commentary in which it said that no matter what objectives the Dalai Lama pursues, whether "Tibetan Independence" or the "Middle Way Approach," and no matter how he acts on stage or controls his puppets from backstage, he will fail.

"No matter who heads the exiled Tibetan government, its illegal nature will not be altered," the commentary said.