“Feb 25th Lhasa”

“Feb 25th Lhasa”

This has been received from Lhasa today 26th Feb.

This New Year passed quietly without any incidents. As matter of fact, it was so quite that if the patrolling soldiers had not set off spectacular fireworks, we did not know it was the new year. Before the approach of the New Year, the government “cleaned up” all undesirable people. They locked up thousands of Tibetan pilgrims, monks, students in a detention center in the eastern suburbs and drove thousands of them to their respective homes. What remains in Lhasa are the people who have temporary permit cards and the residents of Lhasa.

As the New Year approached, the different government units held meetings about the coming New Year and announced that all government officials had to celebrate the New Year; that as is customary, fireworks must be let off, all window and door hangings must be changed, and all the prayer flags on roof tops must be renewed. There were some special tasks for Party members; they were told that they must celebrate the New Year and be vanguards of this life or death-struggles; they were also told that they “should not drink” and “can’t turn off their cell phones for 24hrs”. On New Year’s Eve, the security guards and the local committee members changed window and door hangings and all prayer flags near the Jokhang temple, and they went door to door to ask people to change all these things.

On the eve of the New Year, the People’s Armed Police, the security guards and plain clothes security personal were patrolling every alley way, on every street corner and public square. There were more security personel in the Barkor and the Potala squares than Tibetan pilgrims; these places were virtually empty apart from them. As I walked around the Jokhang temple, I felt that the atmosphere was very tense and intimidating.

Occasionally, we could hear fireworks, but these were displays by patrolling solders and working units. It went on in the same way till mid-night. What I observed was that most fireworks were set off by the PLA and the working units.

On the first day of the New Year, most Tibetans still did not change their window and door hangings and they left the old prayer flags on the roof tops. There was no dancing and singing in the streets; very few people in the streets. All people (including many officials and cadres) I talked to said that this New Year is different and compared to previous years, this New Year is not a New Year. “