Drepung monastery was sealed off and surrounded by armed troops after police stopped an attempt by monks to peacefully mark the honor to the Dalai Lama in the week of October 17. The images confirm the reports of a buildup of armed police at the monastery, depicting troops in the hills outside the monastery as well as gathered outside in riot gear. One observer reported: “The woods and hills around the monastery were full of police and troops.” During the same week, there were checkpoints on roads out of Lhasa, and an order to Lhasa citizens not to carry out any religious or celebratory activities.
People’s Armed Police troops moved in to stop the monks from whitewashing the walls on the morning of the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony. The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that one monk was hit on the head with a baton, while a Tibetan source reported online on a Chinese language website that a monk who had just picked up a tool for stirring the whitewash was hit by a police officer and “then pummeled by punches and kicks.” According to the same account, the monks then left the scene, and a large number of People’s Armed Police troops entered Drepung, with others doing military exercises in the monastery parking lot.
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.
Celebrations in Lhasa to commemorate the honor to the exiled Tibetan religious leader were more quietly devotional in Lhasa compared to those that took place in parts of eastern Tibet, where Tibetans set off fireworks and fire crackers. Several Tibetans were detained temporarily after celebrations with fireworks and prayers were held at Labrang (Chinese: Xiahe in Gansu province) monastery in the Tibetan area of Amdo.