- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

LHASA, Tibet — Even for a reclusive Buddhist monk like Dubgyal, China’s occupation of Tibet is hard to ignore.

In his monastery in the capital Lhasa, new monks are forced to learn six books of state dogma before they enter the order. One volume is devoted solely to trashing the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s revered leader in exile.

But last week, China’s heavy-handed presence was more apparent than ever, as the Asian giant celebrated China National Day and forced the Tibetan people to do the same.

On Oct. 1, marking the day Mao Zedong founded his People’s Republic, Chinese flags appeared overnight outside every home, office and shop in the city center. Buddhist pilgrims, long denied religious freedom by the communist regime, had to pray beneath a sea of bright-red flags.

During the security crackdown, state guards swarmed the streets, army helicopters circled above and Chinese tourists flooded into town for the weeklong state holiday.

For proud Tibetans like Dubgyal — whose last name, like others in this story, is omitted to protect him from Chinese authorities — the display was a sad reminder that Tibetans have yet to gain any real measure of autonomy after 56 years of Chinese domination.

“The Tibetan people have no power to do what we like,” he said. “The Chinese have all the power.

Sitting in a tea shop wearing dark crimson robes, Dubgyal shook his shaven head when asked about the Chinese flags outside. Every shopkeeper and homeowner was required to buy one, mount it and keep it up all last week.

If not, residents said, they faced a fine of about $5 and harassment by police.

“The shopkeepers don’t like setting up the flag, but they have to do it,” Dubgyal said. “This is not democracy. We have to do what the government dictates.”

On Lhasa’s main square, soldiers stood at attention while officials gave long-winded speeches at a flag-raising ceremony on Oct. 1. At the base of the majestic Potala — the Dalai Lama’s deserted palace — red banners in Tibetan and Chinese bade the country “heartfelt congratulations” for 57 years of nationhood.

About 3,000 people attended the ceremony, according to state press reports. Among them was Yeishi, a 40-year-old Tibetan translator from Lhasa. He said he went out of curiosity, and in an interview, praised China for bringing Tibet into the modern world.

“The Chinese government is putting lots of money into Tibet,” he said. “I think the most important thing is economic development. People’s standard of living is getting better and better, and there is security. If the Chinese left, everything would be worse.”

The state holiday brought a deluge of Chinese tourists to Lhasa. State press reports said many arrived on the new Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which opened July 1. Tibet analysts fear that the railway, the first to connect Tibet to the outside world, will bring a flood of Chinese immigrants and further dilute Tibet’s unique Buddhist culture.

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