Saga Dawa restrictions across Tibet

12th June 2020

Tibetans have been subjected to increasingly tight restrictions during the holy month in recent years.


Tibetans observing Saga Dawa in Tibet have again been notified of tight restrictions on their religious activities.

Saga Dawa is a holy month in the Tibetan calendar and holds significant religious value for Tibetan Buddhists all around the world. The festival commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of Buddha. Buddhists celebrate it by praying, giving alms and through acts of altruism and benevolence.

Restrictions and prohibitions around the holy month have been imposed for a number of years by the Chinese government. This year, the restrictions have been intensified. 

Strict restrictive forces were deployed around the Tsuklakhang, or Jokhang Temple, complex on the fifteenth day of Saga Dawa. The residents of Lhasa have been watched carefully by the local police, military personnel and officers dressed in civilian clothes. The offering sites at the temple and the circumambulation areas were packed with these police officers patrolling around. Tibetans, who intended to go to the temple to carry out g circumambulations and make offerings were stopped and their mobile phones were checked, reportedly making some of them feel anxious. 

Students in Tibet have also been prohibited from visiting religious sites during the month of Saga Dawa and during school breaks. Schoolchildren and families have long been the targets of vigorous Saga Dawa restrictions. 

A source from Lhasa said, “the huge presence of police and military personnel at these festivals has ruined the sacredness of the day”. 

Alongside this, Chinese authorities have mobilised forces to carry out activities and events in order to increase control over Tibetans, particularly in anticipation of Saga Dawa.

On May 22, the Sakya Township Police Station, the Sakya County Justice Bureau and the Sakya Court jointly carried out legal education activities. Around 342 local Tibetans were forced to participate. They were from the villages of Sakya Town in Sakya County of Shigatse, in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). At the event, authorities asked all Tibetans to stop spreading illegal and criminal information”, “inappropriate political remarks” and “unhealthy public opinion” to maintain network security at the Saga Dawa festivities. 

Local Tibetans have also been encouraged to report possible criminal activity of ongoing underworld forces campaigns, in order for the Chinese government to effectively eliminate criminal forces in the region. This has been an on-going project.


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