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Ganzi Tibetan Region

Photographer: How Hwee Young


Tibetan Buddhists in western China's autonomous Ganzi Prefecture have grown accustomed to applying discretion to their spirituality, especially in showing support to their leader, the Dalai Lama, amid growing surveillance and control by the Communist regime.

"Many people carry their faith in their hearts," says a young lama from Kangding, Ganzi's capital, where around 80 percent of the almost one million Tibetan inhabitants live.The 30-something-year-old lama, who prefers to remain anonymous, explains that he isn't allowed to have a photo of the Dalai Lama even in his room at the monastery, but confesses he has kept one in a secret location.

Not only does Beijing refuse to acknowledge the Dalai Lama, it also accuses him of being behind pro-independence tensions and protests, sometimes carried out in the form of self-immolations, which have been taking place for years in the autonomous region of Tibet and border areas like Ganzi, located west of the Chinese province of Sichuan. Tensions between China and Tibet peaked in March 2008, when dozens of people died in riots, which erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, and extended to provinces in China and the Tibetan plateau, including Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai. Since then, 145 Tibetans have self-immolated in those areas, 45 of them in Sichuan, according to Save Tibet. The last of these occurred when an 18-year-old lama, Kalsang Wangdu, set himself on fire in front of the Ganzi monastery in March.

The governor of the prefecture, Yu Xi Da Wa, told reporters that the region is peaceful and that such information is manipulated by external forces. However, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that most of the protests in Tibetan areas have taken place in Sichuan, and close to 500 arrests have been made in the Tibetan plateau between 2013 and 2015, almost all for showing support to the Dalai Lama. Tsering, a resident of Kangding, tells that although there is tension everywhere, the situation has not spiraled out of control because Tibetans want to protect their culture and know that there are some things they cannot do. One of them is to have the classic, private altar in tribute to the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India, since China invaded Tibet in 1950. "Religions must adapt to the culture of the country. It doesn't matter if you live in a monastery or are a monk. You must follow the law," says Governor Yu. He adds that stability is of utmost importance, citing as an example the investment made by the Chinese government - $4.48 billion a year in infrastructure and other services - to develop the prefecture.


text provided by EFE.