In response to Beijing's Sunday announcement that the Potala Palace, the residence of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, would be shut down from 27 January until further notice to prevent the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, the Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, condemned the move.
“China is playing politics over his holiness' palace. UNESCO should be careful about how China is handling Potala Palace as it is a world heritage site,” Phuntsok told ANI from India’s Dharamshala city, home to Tibetan government-in-exile.
The Chinese government stated over the weekend that the temporary shutdown of the palace was a step to contain the rapid spread of Coronavirus.
The total number of confirmed deaths due to the new virus, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 and has spread to at least 15 countries, has risen to 170. Tibet remains unaffected as of yet.
The 14th Dalai Lama, who was enthroned at the age of four after being discovered by a delegation of monks, has lived in India since his self-imposed exile from Tibet in 1959 following the formal Chinese takeover of the Tibetan capital Lhasa.