Tibetan festival allowed by China to resume after 20-year ban

Beijing: A Tibetan community festival, banned for 20 years after the arrest of a popular religious leader, has been allowed by the authorities of China to resume with no explanation given for the sudden lifting of control, Tibetan sources say, a report mentioned.

The annual event held in Nyagchuka county in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, formerly a part of historic Tibet, features horse races and picnics, a Tibetan living exile told RFA, citing local sources.

“But since 2002, the year when Tulku Tenzin Delek was arrested on a charge of bombing a public square, the Chinese authorities had barred Tibetans in the region from celebrating the annual event,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We don’t know why the authorities have suddenly allowed the festival to be held again,” the source said. Authorities had hoisted Chinese flags around the festival grounds before allowing the event to be held, though, he added.

“In earlier years, when Tulku Tenzin Delek was there, people were forbidden to indulge in alcohol, smoking or taking drugs at the picnic, but this year everything was allowed,” the source said.

The annual festival was a major gathering in the region even before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, the source said. “But it became even grander after Tulku Tenzin Delek lived there. During the picnic, religious teachings were given and plays were performed on the life of the Tibetan yogi and poet Milarepa.”

“There was so much respect for Tulku Tenzin Delek.”

Tulku Tenzin Delek, 65, died under mysterious circumstances on July 12, 2015, 13 years into a 22-year sentence following what rights groups and supporters called a wrongful conviction on a charge of bombing a public square in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu in April 2002, RFA reported.

Widely respected among Tibetans for his efforts to protect Tibetan culture and the environment, he was initially sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. An assistant, Lobsang Dondrub, was executed almost immediately, prompting an outcry from rights activists who questioned the fairness of the trial.


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