Chinese authorities have banned major religious activities in monasteries in and near Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa during the Lunar New Year, citing COVID-19 concerns. But critics call the move a further encroachment by China on Tibetan religion and national culture. The ban announced in a Feb. 22 notice by Lhasa’s Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau comes ahead of a period of politically sensitive Tibetan anniversaries falling in March, when Chinese authorities regularly tighten security in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas of China, fearing protests against Beijing’s rule.
The order, a copy of which was seen by RFA, affects the Drepung, Sera, Ratreng, Sharbumpa, Sengling, Dakpo and the Tsuglakhang monasteries, sources in Tibet and in exile say. It also orders Tibetans to remain in their homes and avoid travel and gatherings during the Lunar New Year, called Losar, which began this year on March 3.