A student asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during the first day of the two-day teachings for young Tibetans at the Tibetan Childrens' Village School in Upper Dharamsala, India on June 27, 2013. (Photo/OHHDL/Tenzin Choejor)
DHARAMSHALA, June 28: The Chinese government has strongly denied reports of any relaxation in their decades old policy in Tibet of a blanket ban on the display of portraits of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In a statement to the BBC
on Friday, the Chinese state bureau for religious affairs said there had been “no policy change.”
The government maintained that China's policy towards the Dalai Lama, considered by Beijing a “splittist,” was "consistent and clear".
"If the Dalai Lama wants to improve his relationship with the Central Government, he must really give up his stance in favour of 'Tibetan Independence' or independence in any disguised forms," the BBC
cited the state bureau as saying.
China’s abject denial comes after reports of isolated cases of relaxation in the portrait-ban, as “experimental” measures, came out of Tibet over the past few days.
The London based Free Tibet on Thursday reported that monks at the Gaden monastery
, one of Tibet’s oldest and largest institutions of learning, in Tibet’s capital Lhasa have been informed that they can now display picture of the Tibetan spiritual leader, who was forced to flee into exile in 1959.
Reports on similar “experimental” changes in the policy have also come out of two isolated regions in eastern Tibet.
However, Free Tibet added that it would be unwise to speculate on the implications regarding China’s policies in the restive region as the group hasn’t been able to confirm reports on whether the lift on the ban is an isolated case and extends beyond the Gaden monastery.
noted that they have been unable to confirm this news, despite repeated phone calls to monasteries in Lhasa and in other regions of eastern Tibet.
“Several monks admitted they had heard of possible changes to the government's long-standing policy, but said they had not witnessed any relaxation in policy themselves,” BBC
’s China correspondent Celia Hatton reported.
“Portraits of the Tibetan spiritual leader are still banned, the monks explained. Only officially sanctioned images of the Buddha are permitted to be displayed,” Hatton cited an unnamed monk in Lhasa as saying.
Since 2009, as many as 119 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.
For more than three decades now, the Dalai Lama has been calling for autonomy for his people as guaranteed by the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
Just last month, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Tibet is “an inalienable part of China” and called the Tibetan Nobel peace laureate “a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities in the name of religion.”