US Government celebrates the Tibetan New Year for the first time, in recognition of Tibetan culture and identity
On February 23, 2015, the State Department hosted a reception to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, to an invited gathering of Tibetan Americans, diplomats, State Department officials and other dignitaries. The first day of Losar fell on February 19 this year.
“This is the first time that such an event has been organized by the State Department and it can be seen as a recognition of Tibetan American culture and its contribution to American society. We are pleased to see the US Government taking this initiative,” said Bhuchung Tsering, Vice President of the International Campaign for Tibet. For more please see our full report.
Images from Tibet on the first day of Losar
Images of Tibetans celebrating Losar, Tibetan New Year, despite intensified security, emerged from across Tibet last week. Losar this year is significant, particularly in the Tibetan area of Amdo, because it is the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday on July 6, according to the Western calendar.
A photograph from Ngaba showed Tibetans in a bold celebration offering khatags (white blessing scarves) to an image of the Dalai Lama at a shrine bearing the words ‘Welcome to the 80th birthday of His Holiness’. According to tradition in the Tibetan area of Amdo, 80th birthday celebrations are particularly important. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities deployed large numbers of troops in Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Qinghai prior to Tibetan New Year, and declared the importance of ‘stability’ at Losar.
New Chinese laws in Rebgong, northern Tibet, institute wide-ranging restrictions
The rules, enacted in Rebgong County in the northern Tibetan region of Amdo, forbid 20 “illegal” activities, including “associations formed in the name of the Tibetan language, the environment, and education,” and playing music which “implies support for Tibetan independence.” Rebgong is an important cultural and religious center for Tibetans, and it has been the site of multiple protests and a number of self-immolations over the last few years. For a full translated list of the restrictions, please see this Tibet Post report.
Crackdown on young monks in Tsonub region of Tibet
Authorities in Tsonub, the area west of Tso Ngonpo lake, have prevented young monks who returned home for the Tibetan New Year from returning to their monasteries. This move, reported here by Radio Free Asia, is seen as an attempt to cut down on the size of Tibetan monasteries. Local parents are concerned that the Chinese government-run schools these children will have to attend instead don’t teach the Tibetan language, and their attempts to organize extra-curricular Tibetan language schools have also been stymied by the authorities: “To compensate for this, an educated local Tibetan had organized special classes to teach the language, but these have now been shut down,” a local Tibetan told RFA. “If we disobey the government’s directive, this could create problems for us. And if we comply, this could hurt the future of our children.” The full story is available here.