New fears for historic structure of Jokhang temple after major fire, as China covers up extent of damage; Save Tibet

China – Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa
  • There is still no clarity over the extent of the damage caused by a major fire at the sacred Jokhang Temple in Lhasa on the second day of Tibetan New Year, February 17, largely due to China’s imposition of restrictions on the flow of information. There are now new fears that the authorities are engaged in inappropriate repair work to the historic structure – a UNESCO World Heritage site – in order to cover up the damage, which is likely to be extensive, based on assessment by experts of post-fire video footage and stills.
  • An apparent delay of half an hour in fighting the fire has not been explained, given that China told the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in December that the Jokhang Temple has its own fire brigade, based 24 hours at the building, “for the safety and protection of cultural relics.”
  • Concerns are compounded by the lack of access for architecture or heritage experts, given China’s tight grip over the region.

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