02/16/2009, 00.00
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China fears Tibetans’ pledge not celebrate New Year

by Nirmala Carvalho
Tibetan rights groups are planning to protest against China’s ongoing harsh repression by not celebrating New Year. Beijing is trying to show that everyone is happy; at the same time it is persecuting and arresting anyone in favour of the boycott. Here is an interview with a Tibetan official.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Students for a Free Tibet India (SFT) and three other groups of Tibetan refugees (Tibetan Women’s Association, GuChuSum Movement and the National Democratic Party of Tibet) have decided this year not to celebrate Tibetan New Year set for 25 February. Instead they plan to commemorate the Dalai Lama’s 50 years of exile and protest against China’s current campaign of repression in their country.

Tibetan New Year is called Losar and is the country’s main annual celebration. Like China’s it takes place over several days and involves the whole country.

But “how can we celebrate anything when our fellow Tibetans have been killed, arrested and tortured arbitrarily?” SFT’s National Director Tenzin Choeying (pictured) told AsiaNews.

History teaches how important such ‘cultural events’ are. In 1987 monks from every monastery gathered in Lhasa for Monlam Chenmo for a great prayer festival that comes after New Year. It eventually turned into the first large scale protest against Chinese rule.

“China wants to show the world that Tibet is quiet; that people are happy because of higher standards of living; that only a few disgruntled people are protesting. This is why the Chinese authorities have handed out 500 yuan to each Tibetan to buy firecrackers for Losar,” Tenzin explained. “At the same time police have told hotels in Xiahe (Gansu) that the city was closed to foreigners.”

In Tibet itself police have arrested many Tibetans on suspicion of supporting the no-celebration Losar campaign.

“Worldwide protests by Tibetans last year showed the world the strength and determination of Tibet’s younger generations,” Tenzin further said. On the occasions of the Beijing Olympic Games, “Tibetans were present in every city of the world to protest and this has strengthened our resole” to fight “for a non-violent resolution to the Tibetan issue.”

But there is “a climate of fear inside Tibet.” The country “is like a military camp [. . .]. Our people are suffering intense repression. There are armed People's Armed Police in the streets, keeping strict watch on the movements of ordinary people.”

“Evidently China believes that the use of brute force and a massive settlement of Han Chinese, can turn Tibetans into a minority in their own homeland.” Such “gross violations of human rights should not be ignored by world leaders if they are sincere when they say they want harmony and ethics in the world.”

“In the Khum area in Pasho, a youth was killed in police custody after police interrogation,” Tenzin Choeying lamented. The young man had been detained “for protesting along with his friends” against Losar celebrations.

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