[Vajrayana Buddhist] Monks swathed in crimson robes chant under silk hangings in a murky hall heavy with the smell of yak butter. Photos of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama -- seen by China as a [separatist] -- are openly displayed, as if in defiance. But security forces have tightened their grip on the Tibetan plateau, and monasteries appear to be emptying out, gripped by an atmosphere of fear and loss.
In this town, the monks refused to set off fireworks at Chinese New Year at the end of January, boycotting normal celebrations as a mourning gesture. "Too many of our people died this year," one monk told me, referring to nearly two-dozen Tibetans who have set themselves on fire as a protest against Chinese repression. Identifying details have been removed to protect those who talked to NPR. More