Shopkeepers in China's Luhuo county were ordered to handover photographs of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The government in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which is situated in western Sichuan province, had ordered all vendors to surrender images of the spiritual leader by 2 February at the Draggo County Office of Culture and Discipline.
The order was issued on 31 January. "If any shop or store possessed photos of the Dalai Lama and displayed these before the date of this notice, these should be voluntarily surrendered to the Draggo County Office of Culture and Discipline by Feb. 2," the order read, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA) Tibetan Service. "Those who delay in handing these over, or who never turn them in, will be punished severely," the notice read.
"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 for external publicity at the publicity department in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, told the Global Times. He, however, said that residents are welcome to hang pictures of the past and present leaders of the Communist Party.
Officers from the cultural bureau, industrial and commercial bureau and the local police were called in to support the county's law enforcement squad. Before the order was issued, an estimated 40% of the county's stores sold or displayed Dalai Lama's photo, RFA reported. The report was, however, slammed by Gou, who said it was impossible for stores to showcase Dalai Lama's photos openly.
"Hanging his [Dalai Lama's] picture was the same as displaying Saddam Hussein's image would be for Americans," Global Times quoted Lian Xiangmin of the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing as saying.
Dalai Lama, 80, fled Tibet in 1959 after it was suspected that his life was in danger after he was invited alone to attend a performance by a Chinese dance troupe. When he left for India, Chinese troops had taken almost all of Tibet under its control. Since then he has been living in exile in the Indian State of Himachal Pradesh.