China lifts 17-year ban on Dalai Lama photos at Tibet monastery


Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama addresses journalists in Dharamsala on November 23, 2008.



China lifted a 17-year ban on Thursday that stopped Tibetan monks from displaying photos of the Dalai Lama at the prominent Gaden monastery in Lhasa.

The decision concerning one of the most historically important religious establishments in Tibet reversed a 1996 ban at a time when similar changes are being made in other Tibetan regions of China.

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It also may signal that authorities are considering looser religious restrictions and a policy change for Tibet.

The London based group Free Tibet said, however, that it wouldn't be wise to think of the move in terms of China's policies as it has yet to be confirmed if the lift on the ban is an isolated case or if it will extend beyond Gaden.

"Tibetans' reverence for and loyalty to the Dalai Lama has almost no equal among the world's communities and if this policy is extended beyond this individual monastery, as other reports suggest, it will be very significant for the Tibetan people," said Free Tibet's Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren. "However, these reports remain unconfirmed and, in those circumstances, it would be unwise to speculate on their implications regarding China's policies in Tibet. A local change in policy can easily be reversed."

US-based advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet said that officials in China's western Qinghai province are also considering lifting the ban on Tibetans displaying photos of the spiritual leader, and that the region has draft proposals to end the practice of forcing Tibetans to denounce the Dalai Lama and to decrease police presence at monasteries.