BEIJING - Tibetan Communist Party members and civil servants have been warned against visiting temples in Lhasa this week, a local official said on Wednesday, apparently to curb the unfading influence of the exiled Dalai Lama.
Party members and civil servants faced expulsion and dismissal respectively if they prayed at Buddhist temples in the capital, an official surnamed Wang with the neighbourhood committee in Dangba village told Reuters by telephone. They could resume visits after the annual session of parliament ends in Beijing on Friday, the official said. He did not explain the connection.
A source who requested anonymity quoted two Lhasa residents as saying neighbourhood committees this week banned all city residents from burning incense and prostrating at temples. No reason was given. One resident said the ban was to run in one part of Lhasa from March 14 to 18, while another said it was in force in another area until next Wednesday, the source said. “A ban on all public expression of religion by Lhasa citizens would be unprecedented. And it’s very strange that no reason has been given,” Robbie Barnett, a Tibetologist at Columbia University in New York, said by telephone. The ban appears aimed at preventing Tibetans from praying for long life for the Dalai Lama, their spiritual god-king, coinciding with such a ceremony on Wednesday in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.
The Dalai Lama has lived in Dharamsala since fleeing his Himalayan homeland in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule. “I am guessing that this is a response by the Chinese leadership in Tibet to ... special prayers to be said for the Dalai Lama on March 14,” Barnett said of the ban.