Burnings cast pall on Tibetan New Year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2012, 12:00am

The Tibetan New Year, or Losar, began in sombre fashion around the world yesterday amid mourning for more than 20 Tibetans who had set themselves on fire.

A teacher from the Tibetan ethnic minority living in Sichuan province's Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture said yesterday that the atmosphere on the first day of the New Year, or Lhakar Day, felt routine.

'All our family members have stayed at home all day long, watching television, drinking tea and having meals - but there's no spirit at all,' the teacher said.

'I've heard that there are some evening shows to celebrate the new year in either the Tibet Autonomous Region or Qinghai province, but we've got nothing like that in Aba.'

The Tibetan government-in-exile had called for people to refrain from new year celebrations to show respect to those who had died in radical protests against Chinese rule.

'Please do not celebrate Losar this year, but do observe traditional and spiritual rituals by going to the monastery, making offerings, and lighting butter lamps for all those Tibetans inside Tibet who have sacrificed and suffered under the repressive policies of the Chinese government,' Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the exiled government, said earlier this week.

Another Tibetan living in the Sichuan capital of Chengdu confirmed a markedly different mood during the holiday.

There was heavy security in Aba and the neighbouring Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture following 21 reported self-immolations over the past year.

In the latest case, the International Campaign for Tibet said, an 18-year-old Tibetan monk set himself on fire in Aba's Yangtang county on Sunday after proclaiming his support for Tibet's independence and its spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.