China’s official media suggested that Tibetans ushered in Losar, their traditional New Year, which fell on Feb 21, with joy and gusto, greeting each other with the phrase “Losar Tashi Delek” (Happy Tibetan New Year), as its official Xinhua news agency put it. However, according to the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Feb 21, the Chinese government had imposed intense restrictions on residents of Tibet’s capital for the occasion, with security forces ramping up surveillance and monitoring of residents and conducting random searches. Xinhua also highlighted how the compulsorily relocated nomadic Tibetans and mixed-marriage families celebrated Losar with great festivity.
“Beginning in February, Chinese authorities started installing more surveillance cameras in Lhasa ahead of the start of Losar, citing unreasonable reasons such as for security,” the rfa.org report cited a local Tibetan as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from authorities.
“Police are stationed every kilometer where [members of] the public are summoned for random searches, especially of their cell phones,” he has said.
The Chinese government has not only deployed police and military troops in Lhasa ahead of Losar, but also posted government officials dressed in civilian clothing to spy on Tibetans, another resident from the region has said.
“The police are probing every shop and restaurant under an ongoing campaign called ‘Security and Welfare by the Police’,” he has said. “And the Tibetans visiting Lhasa from other parts of Tibet who are staying in hotels and guesthouses are constantly investigated and harassed.”
While the Norbulingka, the historical winter residence of the Dalai Lamas, was declared open to the public from Feb 15, visitors had to show their national identity cards and register their names.
“This is something that has never happened before, where people have to register their names and provide an identity card to visit Norbulinka for a pilgrimage,” Sangay Kyab, a Spain-based researcher at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights, has said. “So, this is a violation of religious freedom.”
Meanwhile the Xinhua report highlighted the celebrations of Losar by nomadic Tibetans it had made to relocate from Tsonyi, “China’s highest county”, located in northern Tibet’s Nagchu City, with average altitude of over 4,500 meters, to Singpori on the north bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River in the city of Shannan (Tibetan: Lhokha) City, located at an altitude of 3,600 meters in southern Tibet.
The report noted that in In Jul 2022, Tibet launched the second phase of the high-altitude ecological relocation to Singpori. Under this compulsory program, China is to eventually relocate nearly 10,000 people from the counties in Nagchu City of Tsonyi, Amdo and Nyima, with an average altitude of over 4,500 meters, to Singpori.
The report also highlighted the celebration of Losar by Chinese immigrants who had settled in Tibet and married local Tibetans. China has a decades-long policy of actively encouraging local Tibetans to marry Chinese immigrants with the provision of a host of incentives as a part of its Sinicization drive there.