Tibetans fear that the construction could lead to destruction or alteration of the UNESCO-protected historical site.
A multi-million project has been launched to renovate the Jokhang Temple complex in Lhasa.
The Jokhang Temple is a sacred site for Tibetans and one of the most significant places in all of Tibet. It is also listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
It was initially built by the 33rd King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo in 652 and later enlarged several times by the 5th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
The Chinese Bureau of Cultural Relics of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) claims that the project is aimed at improving the security of the complex and its fire-fighting facilities. This includes the construction of an underground firewater pond.
On 17 February 2018, a fire broke out at the complex causing considerable damage. The circumstances surrounding the fire and the extent of the damage to the Jokhang were suppressed by the Chinese government, which withheld information about the incident. The 2018 fire is cited as one of the reasons for the renovation.
However, Tibetans fear that any construction on the complex could lead to destruction or alteration of the significant infrastructure. The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) also raised concerns that early pictures of the construction appear to adhere to a Chinese architectural style, which is incompatible with traditional Tibetan architecture.
The temple is situated at the heart of the city of Lhasa in the Barkhor Square. This is an important spot for Tibetans for various reasons. It is where Tibetans perform religious activities, such as circumambulation, prostration and praying. The famous Lhasa Monlam is held here every first month of Tibetan calendar. Quite a number of protests in Tibet have also occurred in this square.
The renovation project, which has already started, is expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to Chinese state media.
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