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New Images Confirm Security Buildup of Drepung on Day Dalai Lama Awarded the Congressional Gold Medal


New images received from Tibet show troops gathered outside Drepung Monastery in Lhasa in a show of force after monks whitewashed a wall to commemorate the Dalai Lama being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal on October 17, in Washington, DC. Kate Saunders, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Tibet, says, People's Armed Police troops moved in to stop the monks from whitewashing the walls on the morning of the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.

Pilgrims and tourists were not allowed to enter the monastery, and monks were not allowed to leave. Most of the monks were not even allowed to go to the dining hall to eat or boil water for several days.

According to one report, on October 26, a few pilgrims were allowed into Drepung for the first time since the monastery had been sealed off. The same report, online in Chinese on a blogsite and informed by individuals in Lhasa, stated that on November 7, monks were finally allowed to leave the monastery, but only for a limited time period. The atmosphere at Drepung is reportedly still tense, with monks under continued surveillance.

Monks at Drepung before the whitewashing of the wall was broken up by People’s Armed Police on October 17. The image shows the celebratory mood at Drepung on the day of the Congressional Gold Medal award – the marks on the monks’ robes indicate that tsampa (roasted barley flour) was being thrown in honor of the day. Although it is clear this was a celebration and not a protest, the group was soon broken up by armed police. Picture obtained by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, India, www.tchrd.org

Armed troops gather at Drepung on October 17, the day the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. Picture obtained by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, India, www.tchrd.org

Police and soldiers were seen gathered on the hillside beside Drepung on October 17, as reported in an online Chinese language blog with eyewitness reports. Prayer flags can be seen and mantras are inscribed on the rocks. Picture obtained by the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, India, www.tchrd.org

Tibetans mark the Congressional Gold Medal award ceremony outside the Jokhang in Lhasa. The flames shooting out of the incense kiln are a key to the importance of the celebration – Tibetans throw alcohol, butter, medicinal herbs into the kiln and the smoke from the incense is an offering. If the flames burn as brightly as in this image, it is clearly a sign that more Tibetans are involved making more offerings than usual. Image supplied to ICT by a tourist visiting Lhasa on October 17.

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