DHARAMSHALA, August 1: An exiled Tibetan visiting his family in Tibet was recently detained and later expelled from Tibet by Chinese officials after he was found in possession of pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
According to information received by Phayul, the Tibetan man living in north India, who wishes to remain unnamed, had received all required permission from Chinese authorities to travel to Tibet.
After entering Tibet last month, Chinese security forces in Dingri, in Shigatse region of central Tibet, searched his luggage and found pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a book on introduction to Buddhism from his belongings.
When the Chinese officials told him that possessing photos of the Dalai Lama was a “criminal offence” in Tibet, he argued by citing recent reports of a relaxation in policy over the ban of pictures of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
The Chinese officials responded by saying that only those pictures of the Dalai Lama taken before 1959, when he was forced into exile, was allowed now.
He was detained for ten days and subjected to intense interrogation before finally being escorted to the border and sent back to Nepal.
Last month, London based Free Tibet reported that monks at the Gaden monastery, one of Tibet’s oldest and largest institutions of learning, in Tibet’s capital Lhasa had been informed that they can now display pictures of the Dalai Lama
. The move came after reports of similar “experimental” changes in the policy in two isolated regions in eastern Tibet.
However, the Chinese state bureau for religious affairs quickly denied any relaxation
in their decades old policy in Tibet of a blanket ban on the display of portraits of the Dalai Lama, saying that there has been “no policy change.”
The government maintained that China's policy towards the Dalai Lama, considered by Beijing a “splittist,” was "consistent and clear.”
The Washington based group International Campaign for Tibet in a report last week said that discussions on the experimental and less hostile policy towards the Dalai Lama appear to have been shut down in the Tibetan area of Tsolho, in eastern Tibet following a visit by one of China’s top leaders Yu Zhengsheng.
“Official notices have been issued in at least two areas emphasising the Chinese government’s hardline policies against the Dalai Lama, and warning Tibetans that pictures of the Dalai Lama will not be allowed in monasteries,” ICT said.
The notices further warned of penalties for spreading ‘rumors’ about Dalai Lama pictures being allowed.
Similarly, in the so-called Golok Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, ICT said a strongly-worded notice in Tibetan was issued by the local authorities on July 11 stating that it is “improper” for the broader community of believers and the clergy to believe in rumors that the Central Government is having a new policy in Tibetan areas and talks about having the freedom to venerate the Dalai Lama's portraits.
Using a term referring to the ‘Strike Hard’ campaign, which in Tibet often involves severe penalties for political dissent, the notice warns: “Those criminals who intentionally spread false rumors and create confusion will be interrogated and will be struck hard.”
Yu, China’s leading official in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities, during his visit to Gansu earlier this month called for an “absolute fight” against the Dalai Lama
and noted that only when the exile Tibetan spiritual leader “publicly announces that Tibet is an inalienable part of China since ancient time, gives up the stance of 'Tibet independence' and stops his secessionist activities, can his relations with the CPC Central Committee possibly be improved.”
Since 2009, as many as 120 Tibetans living under China’s rule have set themselves on fire demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.
Scores of Tibetans have been arrested and disappeared for keeping portraits of the Dalai Lama in their phones or at homes, and singing songs or writing about the Tibetan spiritual leader who relinquished all his political authorities to the elected Tibetan leadership in 2011.