Wary Tibetans mark Dalai Lama’s birthday quietly in China

By Reuters Staff
July 8, 2013

(Chinese bank notes from faithful are placed in front of a portrait of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama at Kumbum monastery, where Dalai Lama used to live, on the outskirts of Xining, Qinghai province, July 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

The streets of Chabcha county in western Qinghai province were quiet on Saturday as  Tibetan monks marked the Dalai Lama’s birthday in their homes, wary that any public celebration could endanger a tentative softening by Chinese authorities.

Tibetans in China have always had to steer clear of public ceremonies revering their 78-year-old exiled spiritual leader who Beijing has denounced as a “wolf in monk’s robes”.

But in the run-up to this year’s anniversary, authorities in Qinghai had discussed proposals to ease restrictions including allowing Tibetans to openly display photographs of the Dalai Lama, the International Campaign for Tibet said.

On Saturday, however, there was no sign of any celebration with many ordinary Tibetans not even aware it was his birthday.

At the Kumbum monastery close to Qinghai’s capital, Xining, monks prayed in a room next to another that was built as a shrine to the Dalai Lama, whose photograph was displayed.

“We’ll celebrate his birthday at our homes privately but we’ll never do it in the open,” said Khedroob, 40, a monk at the Kumbum monastery.

“But we don’t have to wait for a special day to celebrate, we celebrate him everyday.”

Khedroob said he had received a text message on his mobile phone that authorities in Qinghai have discussed allowing Tibetans to display images of the Dalai Lama, but added he didn’t know whether to believe it.

Read the full story by Sui-Lee Wee here.

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