China shuts down Lhasa temples during National Day holiday period

Chinese authorities have closed some of Tibet’s holiest Buddhist sites during the National Day holiday week and have been searching people in Lhasa, two Tibetans inside the region said.
Tibetans and others have been shut out of the Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace and monasteries in Lhasa, capital of the western region, during the observation of the holiday marking the 74th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the sources said.
Officials declared 8 days of public holiday beginning Oct. 1.
The Chinese government has always imposed restrictions on Tibetans and conducted propaganda campaigns in Tibet during the National Day holiday period. But this year, authorities also began searching people traveling on public transportation. Those without proper documents were not allowed to stay in Lhasa, the sources said.
Officials also made Tibetan Buddhist monks in monasteries celebrate National Day on Oct. 1 and undergo political re-education.
Chinese authorities have placed a growing number of restrictions on Tibetans in or entering Lhasa and increased police presence there since 2008. In March of that year, police violently suppressed peaceful Tibetan protests, leading to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.
The event sparked a wave of demonstrations against Chinese rule that spread into Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces. Security forces quelled the protests and detained, beat or shot hundreds of Tibetans.
Sacred site
Built in the 7th century by King Songtsen Gampo of the Tibetan Empire, the Jokhang Temple is considered the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.  
Authorities in Tibet warned government officials, office staff and students not to visit religious sites or go on pilgrimages, or else risk losing their jobs and pensions, or be expelled from their schools, if caught, the two Tibetans said.
“Though it is normal for party cadres not to participate in religious activities in the Lhasa area, these days special restrictions are placed on students from taking part in religious activities,” said one source who declined to be named out of fear of retribution.
Yet at the same time, more than 1.9 million tourists have visited Lhasa during the National Day holiday, stopping in museums and historical places that have been open, though places of worship remained closed to the general public as of Sept. 30, according to Chinese state media.
Since the end of September, the Chinese government has cited a pretext of maintaining public safety and security during the National Day holiday period, said a second Tibetan source who declined to be named for the same reason. Officials deployed police in and around Lhasa and began screening and searching the public, he said.
The Lhasa Tsuklakhang Management Committee, which runs the Jokhang temple, issued a notice on Monday, widely read on social media in Tibet, declaring Oct. 10th an additional holiday during which religious sites would remain closed to the public, said the source.
Translated by Rigdhen Dolma for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.


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