Sources in exile and Beijing reported an increased Chinese military presence, particularly in Lhasa and the Rebkong area of Amdho, northeastern Tibet, which last month became the epicentre of self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule in their country, during the Geden Ngachub holiday, between December 8 – 10.
Each year Tibetans traditionally say prayers and light incense and candles in memory of the great Buddhist teacher, Je Tsongkhapa, who died in 1419.
Sonam, a Tibetan living in exile, reported an increased army and police presence in Rebkong, where eight Tibetans set themselves alight last month. He stated that Chinese military personnel tightly monitored the town and monastery, where 600 monks had gathered to pray, preventing any other large gatherings.
Beijing based Tibetan writer, Woeser, reported in her blog, Invisible Lhasa, that Chinese military and police were stationed throughout the city’s streets and monasteries, tightly controlling the number of Tibetans attempting to mark the occasion. Police, some wearing sliver uniforms and masks, formed dense lines around Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, considered Tibet’s most important pilgrimage site, where Tibetans were prevented from praying, lighting incense or doing the kora (circumambulating the temple.)
A Lhasa based source added that Chinese repression of Tibetans during the holiday had increased significantly since 2008, which saw the most violent clashes between ethnic Tibetans and Chinese military for almost five decades.