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Tibetans forgo New Years celebrations in protest

CTV.ca, Feb 28 2009

Lhasa, Tibet (China) -- The Tibetan New Year has seen few celebrations in the region this year, as many Tibetans have chosen to boycott festivities to protest Chinese rule and to remember those killed during riots in recent years.

<< Roughly 100 Tibetan monks participate in a candlelight vigil, reports say their monastery is surrounded by the military.

Even the Dalai Lama has said it would be "inappropriate" to celebrate. Typically, the celebrations for Losar, the Tibetan New Year, involve a week of rituals.

While Chinese state television has broadcast video of happy people taking part in grand events at public venues, those are images of government-sanctioned festivities. Outside the areas shown on television, the streets are quiet.

Buddhist temples that should be overflowing are empty, and in some cases closed.

"There was a war in Lhasa that killed a lot of our people, this is why we're not celebrating," said one Tibetan woman who did not want to be identified.

Indeed, it was only last year that Tibetans staged their largest uprising against Chinese authorities in decades, by staging anti-government protests in open defiance of Beijing.

In response, the Chinese government clamped down hard, sending thousands to jail in the weeks that followed. Tibetan groups say at least 200 of their people were killed -- a figure the Chinese government disputes.

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, which saw the Dalai Lama flee into exile. Thousands of troops are patrolling Tibetan streets to keep order, and Tibetans themselves have been completely cut off from the world.

Chinese authorities say this is the same anniversary of the period that saw their government rid the Tibetan people of the Dalai Lama's influence. They have even declared it a holiday, which they call Serfs Emancipation Day.

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