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Party Cancelled

February 25, 2009

Tibetans in exile in Germany will not host New Years celebrations this year. Instead, monks and supporters will commemorate the victims of last year's riots.

A masked dancer and a monk looks on
The Beating Ghosts Festival is usually part of Tibetan New Year celebrationsImage: AP

Tibetans and supporters in Germany have called off celebrations for Losar, the Tibetan New Year. The decision intended to be "a sign of passive resistance" and a show of solidarity to the region, said the Tibet Initiative of Germany TID in Berlin.

TID said in a statement the cancellation also commemorated the victims who died during the Chinese crackdown on riots in Tibet and other parts of China in March 2008.

The Dalai Lama warned Tibetans to be cautious during Losar, celebrated on Wednesday, Feb. 25. He told his followers that Chinese authorities were plotting a crackdown of "unimaginable" force.

"There is a heavy presence of armed security and military forces in most of the cities all over Tibet," the Dalai Lama said in his New Year's message. "In all the places, those who dare to come out even with a slight hint of their aspirations have to face torture and detention."

German government should speak up for Tibet

March 10 marks the 50th anniversary of Tibet's uprising in 1959 and the Dalai Lama's subsequent exile to India.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama
German chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama in Berlin in 2007Image: AP

According to TID, the closer the anniversary came, the stronger were sanctions by Chinese authorities. Tibet has been shut off to foreigners in March. The region was practically in a state of emergency, it said.

"No one can say at the moment how our fellow countrymen in Tibet are going to react to the pressure," said TID's head of the board, Dalha Agyitsang. "We desperately hope that this year, demonstrators won't again be brutally beaten down and Tibetans persecuted in masses."

TID and the Association of Tibetans in Germany VTD have called on the German government to speak out on behalf of Tibetans.

"Germany has to make clear to the Chinese authorities that the increasing oppression harbored great potential of danger," said TID chairman Wolfgang Grader. "Measures such as the ongoing campaign 'drastic action' since the beginning of the year threaten to bring the powder keg Tibet to explode."

Chinese authorities oppose movement

The movement to cancel Losar celebrations spread by word-of-mouth, despite Chinese efforts to keep it quiet, TID said.

Nepalese police arrest Tibetan monk protestors
Tibetan monks in Nepal also protested last yearImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Media reports said the Beijing government had forced Tibetans to hold dances and festivities, showing them on state television ahead of the New Year. It had broadcast footage of dancers in bright, traditional Tibetan dress with crimson-robed monks applauding in the front row.

"The atmosphere welcoming the New Year is deepening," a Chinese state television anchor said earlier this week. "Everyone is praising their happy lives."

On Feb. 15 and 16, the largest protests since last year's riots took place in Lithang in eastern Tibet. More than 100 Tibet monks, laymen and nomads took part, TID said. Over 20 participants were arrested.

Author: Sabina Casagrande (dpa/afp/ap)

Editor: Trinity Hartman