Authorities in northwestern China’s Qinghai province have ramped up efforts to vilify the Dalai Lama, now questioning Tibetan children to discover what their parents have told them about the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, sources in the region say.
The new push expands efforts beginning in 2017 to ban displays of the Dalai Lama’s photos in private homes in Qinghai, historically a part of northeastern Tibet’s Amdo region, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Under the pretense of assessing the livelihood of Tibetans, Chinese officials carry out random home inspections to check for photos of the Dalai Lama,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And the officials also make sure that parents are not saying anything about the Dalai Lama to the children living in their homes.”
Visiting officials will sometimes begin conversations with the children living in Tibetan homes, asking them what they know about the exiled leader, who is regarded by Chinese leaders as a separatist seeking to split Tibet from rule by Beijing.
“They are making sure that parents are not teaching their children anything about the Dalai Lama,” he said.
Officials also destroy family altars and shrines and warn them to take down Tibetan prayer flags hung outside their doors, the source said.
A second source in Tibet told RFA that a campaign launched three years ago in Qinghai’s Golog (Chinese, Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture now restricts Tibetans from performing many traditional religious activities.
“For example, they are not allowed to hang Tibetan prayer flags outside their homes or to build heaps of stones carved with mantras, and they are not allowed to keep shrine rooms in houses provided with government support.”
“If anyone is found violating these guidelines, they will be deprived of any benefits provided by the state,” he said.
A Tibetan living in exile confirmed the details of China’s campaign, citing scenes he’d witnessed when visiting Tibet in 2017.
“The Chinese government was conducting random inspections, calling these part of a program assessing the living standards of Tibetan residents to see if more support was needed from the state.”
“But in reality, they were checking to see if anyone was keeping photos of the Dalai Lama and to make sure no one was imparting information about him to younger Tibetans,” he said.
China’s interference in the instruction Tibetan parents give to their children can only have damaging effects, said Yangdon, a staff member at the mental health desk of the Department of Health in Tibet’s Dharamsala, India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration.
“This constant harassment by the Chinese government in controlling what parents want to share with their children will have a very negative psychological impact on them,” Yangdon said.
“The Chinese government’s campaign imposes further severe constraints on Tibet’s religion and language and on displays of devotion to the Dalai Lama, just as they did during the [1966-1976] Cultural Revolution,” added Karma Tenzin, a researcher at the Dharamsala-based Tibet Policy Institute.
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country and annexed it by force in 1950.
Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday are harshly punished in Tibet and Tibetan regions of western Chinese provinces.
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