China expects Tibet to celebrate Losar…or else
Taking tyranny to new levels.
“Celebrating is Compulsory”
The Chinese government has a New Year’s greeting for Tibetans: Celebrate, or else.
The Tibetan New Year, or Losar, is normally the most festive holiday of the year, when Tibetans burn incense, make special dumplings and set off fireworks. But this year, Tibetans have declared a moratorium on celebrating their own holiday, saying they will instead observe a mourning period for people killed last year during protests against Chinese rule.
Nearly a year after the violent demonstrations reportedly left more than 120 dead, Tibetans are trying a novel technique for nonviolent protest. “Say No to Losar,” as the campaign is called, was launched by Tibetan groups in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama’s home in exile.
“Instead of the usual celebrations marked by singing, dancing and other festivities, silence will be observed and butter lamps will be lit in the temples and homes to pray for the deceased,” they announced in a statement last month.
The tactic appears to be driving Chinese authorities crazy. They’re countering with their own campaign of forced merriment, organizing concerts, pageants, fireworks, horse races, archery competitions. They’ve declared a one-week public holiday beginning today in Tibet and are offering free admission to museums and parks.
To further tempt the 2.8 million Tibetans, state television will broadcast a four-hour gala with 800 performers Tuesday night.
“They want to show that the Tibetan people are happy, that they have returned to normal life. But by intervening, they’re making them unhappy,” said Tsering Shayka, a Tibetan historian now living in Canada. “They are trying to come up with gimmicks instead of solving the problem.”
Robert Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University in New York, says that Chinese efforts to push New Year’s celebrations are likely to backfire.
“I think people will ask, ‘Why is the Communist Party telling me what to do in my own home?’ ” Barnett said.
At Beijing’s Central University for Nationalities, Tibetan students who had applied last year for permission to hold a Losar celebration informed the university recently that they wished to cancel. But the university told them that the party must go on, said a university source who asked not to be quoted by name.
“Celebrating is compulsory,” he said.