Military build-up on Tibetan borders as pilgrims prepare for prayer festival

13th February 2017

New footage shows authorities blocking pilgrims’ right of way amid tensions over Tibetan Uprising anniversary

Video footage acquired by Free Tibet shows a build-up of Chinese authorities on the borders between Luchu County (Gansu province) and Sichuan province.

The border closures come as Tibetans prepare for a series of festivities hosted at monasteries throughout the region.

Verified by Tibet Watch, the footage shows uniformed officers enforcing the closure of a passage point while an unseen man can be heard saying: "Look, look, Chinese armed forces at the Gansu border are not allowing us to visit Kirti Monastery. Look, look, vehicles were stopped."

UNEXPLAINED BORDER RESTRICTIONS ROUTINE

A significant number of Tibetan Buddhist devotees routinely encounter unexplained restrictions on movement at this time in the year as they travel to the Great Prayer Festival (Choetrul Monlam) which falls in the first month of every new year.

The video shows travellers being halted by authorities on their way to Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, which is part of historic eastern Tibet but currently administered as part of China’s Sichuan Province. Many monasteries in Amdo, eastern Tibet, are also observing the religious period.

During the Choetrul Monlam - which can last from one day to a whole month - ritual mask dances are performed, huge thangka religious paintings are displayed, sculptures made of butter are made as religious offerings and pilgrims walk around monasteries and temples as a sign of their devotion.

Chinese authorities view the entire period between Tibetan New Year and the 10th March anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising Day as a "sensitive time" and restrictions are routinely implemented across the whole of occupied Tibet

Across Tibet both monks and nuns routinely face controls on how they worship with the Chinese military keen to demonstrate its strength at key points in the Tibetan religious calendar. During times of official clampdowns on movement additional controls are placed on important religious sites.

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