Two monks have been arrested for holding a prayer ceremony for the Dalai Lama in the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia. The arrests come amid Chinese authorities’ efforts to suppress worship in the region.

The two monks reportedly held the ceremony on January 25 and welcomed a Dalai Lama statue into Jueri Temple, located in Sichuan’s Luhuo county. Chinese authorities announced on January 31 that all Dalai Lama statues were “illegal publications” and ordered them to be handed over before February 2.

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Worship of Dalai Lama at Jueri Temple. Photo: RFA.

“The authorities sent the police in to try and stop the ceremony, but they did not succeed. The atmosphere that day [January 25] was not tense, but the authorities gradually began to impose stricter regulations in the county,” a Luhuo-born, India-based monk Awangkanre told RFA.

Awangkanre also said that the authorities have since blocked phone and internet connections, making it difficult for the public to know the status of the arrested monks.

“It is a regular campaign held before the Spring Festival to crack down on pornography and illegal publications, which include portraits of the Dalai Lama,” Gou Yadong, director of external publicity at the publicity department of the prefecture, told the state-run Global Times on February 2.

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Photos of the two arrested monks – Baga (left) and Aojian (right). Photo: RFA.

Lian Xiangnin, an expert at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing, also said that the Dalai Lama advocated for separatism, and hanging his portraits would be an insult to the Chinese, as much as hanging Saddam Hussein’s portraits would be to Americans.

The article has since been deleted from the Global Times website.

The two monks, Baga and Aojian, were an abbot (khenpo) and a Buddhist scholar (geshe) of Jueri Temple respectively.

Hermina is a Hong Kong writer and journalist. She graduated with a degree in politics from Cambridge, and is interested in international affairs, particularly those related to China, the EU and the Middle East. She also enjoys political satire.