Report: Tibetan Monks Protest New Year Prayer Ban

March 2, 2009

Author: Audra Ang

Source: ABC News

Wire Service: AP

Defiant Buddhist monks banned from marking a key Tibetan New Year prayer festival marched in protest in China's southwest, rights groups said. It was the latest resistance to Chinese rule ahead of sensitive anniversaries in Tibet.

Tensions are high over harsh security measures set up before the new year, which began Feb. 25. The Monlam prayer festival started on Saturday and ends on March 11.

The usually merry atmosphere has been largely subdued since the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, said celebrations would be "inappropriate" after deadly anti-government riots in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, last March led to a crackdown on protesters in Lhasa and Tibetan communities throughout the region.

Also approaching is the March 10 anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

Many Tibetans reportedly have heeded the call to boycott this year's festivities.

The latest protest began Sunday morning — the second day of Monlam — when Chinese officials stopped the monks at the Sey monastery in Sichuan province as they gathered to pray, the International Campaign for Tibet said, citing unidentified sources. The monks left the prayer hall and started walking toward the main town, shouting to be allowed to pray, ICT said.

A few minutes later, armed security officials arrived and the monks returned to their lamasery, the Washington D.C.-based rights group said in an e-mail statement.