China denies arson in Tibetian temple fire

ANI | Updated: Feb 23, 2018 02:51 IST

Beijing [China], Feb 23 (ANI): China has denied arson as the cause of a fire at a Tibetian Buddhist temple in Lhasa, its state media reported on Thursday.

The report further said that the Buddha statue did not suffer any damage.

According to Xinhua, the fire broke out last week on the second floor of the Jokhang Temple. The fire had reportedly damaged the temple's golden roof. However, the fire was doused out.

No casualties were reported and the temple has been reopened to the public.

The temple had been closed to the public on Saturday, Xinhua previously reported, citing local sources.

Robert Barnett, an expert on Tibetan Buddhism, posted videos and photos on Twitter which showed that the Buddha statue had suffered "considerable" damage.

The incident occurred as the Tibetans were celebrating Losar, the traditional Tibetan New Year that began last week and coincided with the Chinese Lunar New Year.

The Jokhang temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated in the heart of old Lhasa in Tibet.

It is Tibetan Buddhism's most sacred site and is the home to the Jowo Shakyamuni, a revered Buddha statue.

According to the UNESCO, the Jokhang Temple is home to numerous priceless cultural artefacts, including over 3,000 images of Buddhas, idols of other deities and historical figures such as treasures and manuscripts.

China's efforts to censor reports of the fire raised concerns among the academics and Tibetans abroad that the authorities were hiding the extent of the damage of the temple, considered to be a sensitive religious site.

China has ruled Tibet since the 1950s and has been accused of trying to eradicate its Buddhist-based culture through political and religious suppression.

In 2008, protests by Tibetan monks in Lhasa escalated into deadly violence targeting China's majority Han ethnic group and the Hui, a Muslim minority group.

In the same year, dozens of monks burst into the Jokhang Temple to interrupt a state-run foreign media press tour intended to showcase the Tibet region's harmony and stability and accused the Chinese government of inciting the protests. (ANI)