His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Photo: Ven Tenzin Jamphel

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Dharamshala, India — Two Tibetans from eastern Tibet have been arrested by Chinese authorities for celebrating the 86th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.

A Tibetan man called Kunchok Tashi and a Tibetan woman called Dzapo from Hasha, Khalong Village, Kardze county, eastern Tibet arrested by local Chinese authorities over celebrating the 86th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, according to Golog Jigme, a former political prisoner now living in Switzerland.

"Kunchok Tashi and Dazpo were detained for their alleged involvement in sharing pictures and documents on social media and encouraging the recitation of Tibetan prayers on the 86th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama," said Golog Jigme, citing sources in the region.

“Along with Kunchok Tashi and Dazpo, 20 to 30 Tibetans were also detained in July for celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6, 2021. In addition to this, information such as the names of the detainees and the locations where they are being held are not known due to tight control of the Internet in Tibet," Golog Jigme told TPI.

Tibetans who display photos of the Dalai Lama, publicly celebrate his birthday, and share his teachings on their cell phones or other social media are often severely punished. Tibetans' religious freedom has been completely restricted by Chinese authorities.

Over the past 70 decades, there has been ongoing political repression, social discrimination, economic marginalization, environmental destruction, and cultural assimilation, particularly due to Chinese migration to Tibet which is fueling intense resentment among the people of occupied Tibet.

The communist-totalitarian state of China began its invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.

Until 1949, Tibet was an independent nation in the Himalayas which had little contact with the rest of the world. It existed as a rich cultural storehouse — a unifying theme among the Tibetans — as was their own language, literature, art, and world view developed by living at high altitudes, under harsh conditions, in a balance with their environment.