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Tibetans in northwest China marked a tense traditional New Year on Wednesday, under the shadow of a string of self-immolations and protests against Chinese control. 16 Tibetans have died after setting themselves on fire protesting the Chinese Communist Party... but age old traditions at temples and monasteries are still going on.
Tibetans in northwest China marked a tense traditional new year with prayer, the sounding of a gong and subdued defiance on Wednesday, in the wake of a string of self-immolations and protests against the Chinese regime.
The traditional New Year, or "Losar," is a combination of Buddhist ceremony and family celebration observed across the Tibetan highlands of western China.
But this year, unrest has overshadowed the celebrations.
At least 16 Tibetans are believed to have died in the past year after setting themselves on fire in protest. Most of them have been Buddhist monks in Tibetan parts of Sichuan and Gansu provinces, next to what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region.
This year's Losar has brought no major flare-ups. But the heavy security in many areas and widespread Tibetan resentment of the Chinese regime's presence remain a volatile combination that could be kindled by sensitive anniversaries and warmer weather.
At the Kirti Monastery in Langmu, a town straddling Gansu and Sichuan, hundreds of red-robed Buddhist monks gathered to chant prayers while a large gong rang twice a minute.
The monastery is a smaller offshoot of a monastery in Sichuan that has been an epicenter of confrontation between the Chinese regime and defiant Tibetans.
Authorities have blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama, for fomenting defiance, but he remains a revered figure among most Tibetans.