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Photo from Reuters Pictures
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April 16, 2008
Dalai Lama’s birthplace locked down
Takanori Kato / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
The front gate of the Dalai Lama’s childhood home in Pingan County, Qinghai Province, ChinaXINING, China–One month after massive riots in Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region last month, the Dalai Lama’s childhood home in neighboring Qinghai Province has been besieged by the Chinese authorities.
Relatives currently living in the childhood home of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader have effectively been placed under house arrest, with their movements outside the home strictly limited.
“It [the house] is located deep in the mountains. Ask anyone up there and you’ll easily find it,” a Tibetan resident told us when we asked for directions to the Dalai Lama’s birthplace having come off the expressway stretching from the province’s capital of Xining.
By the time we reached the house in Pingan County after driving about 40 kilometers through the mountains at an altitude of about 3,000 meters it was already after 5 p.m.
Both sides of the house’s front gate, which was tightly shut, were emblazoned with notices from the provincial judicial authorities dated April 2 .
One notice was written in Chinese, the other in Tibetan. The Chinese notice stated that the authorities prohibited all “destructive antigovernmental behavior” and the reproduction or distribution of the Dalai Lama’s image in any form. The notice also said that anyone providing information about such activities would be rewarded.
Going round to the back of the house, we knocked on the door. A man answered the door and asked, “Where are you from?”
When I identified myself as a Japanese reporter, he suddenly looked nonplussed.
“We can’t help you at the moment, and we’d like you to leave immediately,” he said, before disappearing behind the door.
Later on, a neighbor told us in confidence that the house had been under a tight police guard earlier in the day.
“During the daytime, several police officers blocked the road leading up to the house. They’ve only just left,” the villager said.
The Dalai Lama moved to Lhasa after spending several years in this house after his birth in 1935. He was later forced to flee to India following the Tibetan uprising in 1959.
Though the Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama of initiating the latest protests in Tibet, for Tibetans in the region, he remains the spiritual leader.
On Feb. 21, before the uprising took place in Lhasa, there was a clash between monks and police officers in Tongren County in Huangnan, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is about 150 kilometers south of Pingan County.
When we visited the site of the incident, a young monk expressed anxiety.
“Military officers are coming round and searching our rooms every day. If they find even a fragment of a Dalai Lama photograph, they will take us away immediately,” he said.
(Apr. 15, 2008)