Tibetans Celebrate New Year In Silence
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Good morning, Louisa.
LOUISA LIM: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: So where are you now?
LIM: Well, I've just come back from Tongren, which is a town in Qinghai Province in northwestern China where monks staged protests on three occasions last year. And today is Tibetan New Year. But this year celebrations were canceled. Normally they light fireworks and wear new clothes, but none of that happened this year. And this unofficial boycott, it's really an act of solidarity to mourn those people who died in riots and protests last year. We don't know exactly how many died.
MONTAGNE: After those riots there was a major clamp-down by the Chinese. Are there any signs of that that you can see now?
LIM: So it does seem that there are security forces entering that area.
MONTAGNE: That monk that you just spoke of, what is the mood in the Buddhist monasteries that you've been visiting over the last few days?
LIM: But despite that, interestingly, at four monasteries I went to there were pictures of the Dalai Lama displayed quite openly, and this after a year when there's been a big patriotic education campaign in all the monasteries, where monks have been told to denounce the Dalai Lama. So that is a sign of the defiance and the sort of continuing anger against Chinese rule.
MONTAGNE: Well, a half century since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet. Do those pictures indicate how generally significant he and that time still is there?
LIM: And last year the protests began actually on March the 10th. There was a small protest by monks in Lhasa marking that day. And that snowballed into widespread anti-Chinese protests across the Tibetan plateau. And the Chinese government is obviously worried that something like that could happen again, so that's why they're taking these measures that we've been seeing.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Louisa Lim. Thanks very much.
LIM: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.