In an unexpected policy shift Chinese officials have lifted a ban on Tibetan monks displaying photographs of the Dalai Lama at the Gaden Monastery in Lhasa – one of the most historically important religious establishments in Tibet.
It reverses a ban introduced in 1996, the British-based Free Tibet group told Reuters, and comes as similar changes are being considered in other Tibetan regions of China. It may signal looser religious restrictions by the Chinese authorities three months after President Xi Jinping took office.
The International Campaign for Tibet, a US-based advocacy group, said officials in western Qinghai province were also considering lifting the Dalai Lama picture ban and that there were draft proposals in the region to end the practice of forcing Tibetans to denounce the exiled spiritual leader, and to decrease the police presence at monasteries.
Officials in Lhasa and Qinghai could not immediately be reached for comment.
Such measures appear calculated to reduce tensions between the Tibetans and the government after a series of Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese rule.
Beijing considers the Dalai Lama, who fled from China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a violent separatist.
The Dalai Lama, who is based in India, says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.