News and Views on Tibet

Chinese police arrests Tibetan pilgrim for demanding access into Potala palace

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Image representational (Photo/Xinhua)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, June 17: A Tibetan man named Tsewang Norbu who was on pilgrimage to Lhasa city’s Potala palace has been arrested by Chinese authorities, according to information supplied to Phayul by the Dharamshala-based organization Tibet Watch. The 40-year-old pilgrim from Kham region reportedly urged the authorities to prioritize Tibetans to visit holy sites instead of the growing numbers of Chinese tourists, especially during the most sacred and holy month for Buddhists, which falls on the fourth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar.

Norbu had waited for a week in Lhasa but was unable to visit both Potala and Tsuglagkhang temple. “He was at the end tail of a long queue of Chinese tourists visiting Potala, he shouted at the police to allow people like him on the pilgrimage who have waited for more than a week,” the report said citing an anonymous sources who also confirmed that the concerned pilgrim was immediately taken away by the police after the incident. No further details of his whereabouts is available at the moment.  

Another source also divulged that the authorities were prioritizing tourists over Tibetans who have reportedly been told to limit their visit to the monasteries to three times a week. The report noted that the discrimination against Tibetan pilgrims will reduce Tibetan sites into “cultural zombie areas” catering to Chinese tourists and making it “devoid of its religious essence”. According to Free Tibet, the sources said that security officials increased their surveillance of Tibetans waiting to visit the palace after the arrest of Tsewang Norbu.

Last year during the pandemic, the Lhasa City Buddhist Association instructed followers to restrict certain religious practices during the holy month. While the sole reason for the order was premised on the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus, the real aim, activist groups said, was to further restrict Tibetans religious freedom. “Despite Chinese government’s claim to impose these measures for containing the pandemic, the same government has fallen short of stopping Chinese tourists from visiting Tibet, which continue to pose risks to the people,” US-based International Campaign for Tibet said in a report in May.

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