China warns Tibetans not to post birthday wishes online for exiled Buddhist abbot

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China has ramped up restrictions ahead of the birthday of a pre-eminent Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, calling on local leaders in two Tibetan regions to prevent people from posting his photo or well wishes online, media reports said.

Authorities have threatened to arrest Tibetans in the Ngaba and Dzoge regions who defy the order by posting messages on August 8, the 80th birthday of the 11th Kyabje Kirti Rinpoche (honorific) Lobsang Tenzin Jigme Yeshe Gyamtso Rinpoche, RFA reported.

Rinpoche is the chief abbot in exile of the Kirti Monastery, one of the most important and influential monasteries in Tibet, the report said.

“The government has warned of such activity by Tibetans, and individuals will be arrested and severely punished if found defying it,” said a Tibetan source inside Tibet who declined to be identified so as to speak freely.

Chinese authorities restricted monks from the Taktsang Lhamo Kirti Monastery in Dzoge county and the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba county, both in Sichuan province’s Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, from celebrating Rinpoche’s birthday in 2021. The areas are heavily populated with ethnic Tibetans.

Monks were not allowed to leave their monasteries, and gatherings were not permitted during that time, RFA reported.

“Last year Tibetans inside Tibet anticipated restrictions and scrutiny from the Chinese government on celebrating the 80th birthday of the Kriti Rinpoche, so they held back,” said a Tibetan who lives in exile.

“But this year, Tibetans living in exile and inside Tibet are looking forward to celebrating Rinpoche’s birthday and offering tenshug,” the source said, referring to a long-life prayer offering made to spiritual teachers.

“But we are seeing restrictions and scrutiny in Ngaba and Dzoge.”

The Kirti Monastery has been the site of the majority of self-immolations by monks who oppose China’s repressive policies in Tibet, RFA reported.

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