Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (C) participates in a Tibetan New Year celebration as he arrives at the Park Hyatt hotel in Washington, DC. The 74-year-old will head Thursday to the White House for a long-awaited meeting with US President Barack Obama. (AFP/Jim Watson)
Dharamsala, Feb 18: Tibetans living near the birthplace of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in the Amdo Province of Tibet welcomed Thursday's scheduled meeting between their exiled leader and Barack Obama with a defiant show of fireworks, according to a media report.
Buddhist monks in Tongren, called Rebkong by Tibetans, said they were celebrating the meeting in Washington.
The midnight display of fireworks along a valley dotted with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries was a bold and noisy reminder that, in spite of Chinese condemnation of the Dalai Lama, he remains a potent figure in his homeland, Reuters
"My heart is filled with joy," said Johkang, showing off an enormous smile, standing at his monastery in Amdo, renamed Qinghai by China after taking control of Tibet.
Tibetan monks are seen during a religious ceremony inside a monastery in Amdo Rebkong February 17, 2010. (Photo: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
"It is so important for us that this is happening, that the U.S. has not given in to threats and will meet our leader," added the monk.
Amdo is where the Dalai Lama was born in 1935. He fled into exile from Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and since then has campaigned for self-rule for Tibetans.
"We do this whenever something big, and good happens," said another monk Losan, standing on a hillside above a monastery where monks were lighting fireworks in the early hours of Thursday.
"He's really going to meet Obama?" interrupted a monk standing next to him, sounding somewhat incredulous.
"I heard it on Voice Of America," Losan told him confidently.
File photo shows Chinese security forces marching in Amdo Rebkong February 26, 2009. Last year Tibetans living near the birthplace of the Dalai Lama marked their traditional New Year in quiet defiance and mourning a year after the region erupted in massive protests against Chinese rule. (Photo: REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/file)
The sound of conch shells being blown echoed around the valley as a group of monks burned an offering of flour and a ceremonial Tibetan scarf on a fire.
Veneration for the Dalai Lama transcends the Buddhist clergy and extends into broader Tibetan society where many resent Chinese rule and the relative wealth of Han Chinese, Reuters reported.
"I'm very excited about who the Dalai Lama is going to meet," said one Tibetan woman, who declined to be identified citing the sensitive nature of the topic. "But I worry about what measures the government could take against us in retaliation."
Word of the Dalai Lama's meeting with Obama has filtered through to Qinghai through Tibetan-language foreign radio broadcasts, monks told Reuters
Some spoke proudly of the Dalai Lama's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1989.
"That the 1.3 billion Han Chinese have never had one of their number win a Nobel prize and that we have, with just 6 million people, says something powerful," said a monk, Tedan. "Now you understand why we love him so much."
Chinese Communist government forbid pictures of Dalai Lama being displayed in monasteries and homes, but many in Amdo do.
An altar, where a photo of the Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama is placed, is seen in a temple in Amdo Rebkong (Ch: Tongren) February 17, 2010. China urged the United States to scrap plans for President Barack Obama to meet the Dalai Lama on Thursday. The White House said that Obama would meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on February 18, despite China's repeated warnings that such talks would hurt ties. (Photo: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
A large new paramilitary police headquarters is being built outside the county seat, and monks mutter about occasional fines if their public devotion to the Dalai Lama becomes too much, the report said.
The Chinese government accuses the "Dalai clique" of separatism and of stirring up 2008's anti-China unrest that spread across Tibet. Dalai Lama has denied those accusations, saying he seeks meaningful autonomy through peaceful means.
"CCTV is always saying this and that about him and about us Tibetans," said monk Tarkey, referring to China's main state-run television network. "The world will get a better idea about who he is once he meets Obama."