Tibetans Around China Feel Fallout From Crackdown

2008-03-19
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Chinese riot policemen patrol in Kangding county, the capital of Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China's southwestern Sichuan province on March 20, 2008. AFP Photo: RFA
KATHMANDU—Tibetans around China felt the weight of state power following Beijing’s armed crackdown on anti-Chinese protests and riots that have swept through Tibetan regions of the country since last week.

A Han Chinese teacher in the northwestern province of Gansu said students at the Maerkang Normal College had been forbidden to return to their homes in the rural area of Maerkang county, leading to clashes with police and campus security guards.

“The Tibetan students at the Maerkang Normal College—their homes and parents are in Aba,” the teacher said, referring to the Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture across the border in Sichuan.

“They heard some rumors and wanted to go back home. The school stopped them from going, saying that it would be safer on campus,” he told RFA’s Mandarin service.

“I am not sure on which day the clash occurred. But there is a curfew in place on campus and beginning March 15 the students were not allowed to go home. When they are on campus, their safety is assured. But the school is concerned about people causing trouble,” he told reporter Ding Xiao.

Following Friday’s crackdown in Lhasa during which armed police began shooting rioting protesters, violence spread to neighboring parts of China as anti-Chinese protesters took to the streets in Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai provinces, with large crowds of Tibetans marching on government buildings, and thousands of security forces drafted in to seal off Tibetan areas.

The students are not allowed to go home. When they are on campus, their safety is assured. But the school is concerned about people causing trouble.

Meanwhile, authorities in Beijing threw a police cordon around colleges with large Tibetan student populations.

A Tibetan student enrolled at the Southwest University for Nationalities in Sichuan’s provincial capital, Chengdu, said communication with his family and friends in rural Ngaba had been difficult.

“It is inconvenient for me to talk about the situation. I cannot reach my folks back home by phone. I kept calling but kept getting a busy signal and could not get through,” he said.

“I am deeply concerned about my family’s welfare. I know nothing about what’s happening there. Communication channels are not working,” he said.

And a Tibetan student enrolled in a university in Shanghai said he was under surveillance by the authorities. “It is inconvenient for me to talk,” he said.

“My cell phone is under surveillance. I cannot tell you if there have been protests on campus. It’s inconvenient.”

Many remote areas of the Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai plateau are home to large Tibetan populations, many of whom are nomads. Tibet also has an internal border with China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, who also deeply resent Beijing’s rule.

Exiled Uyghur leaders are expressing support for Tibetans who have been staging protests through much of western China over the last week.

Uyghur American Association president Rebiya Kadeer, a businesswoman and leading dissident, accused the Chinese authorities of “atrocities” and defended the Tibetans’ right to protest peacefully.

She blamed Beijing’s policies of “fierce repression” in Tibet and Xinjiang for political instability, ethnic conflicts and social tensions in both regions.

“Tibetans and Uyghurs have been living under the yoke of Chinese oppression for decades. They have been subjected to Beijing’s assimilationist policies aimed at eroding their religious identity and at accelerating cultural alienation,” Kadeer said.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama has dedicated his entire life to the peaceful promotion of legitimate aspirations of the Tibetan people for cultural autonomy and survival,” said Kadeer, who met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in 2005.

“The world community cannot turn a blind eye to the obstinate refusal of the Beijing regime to fully engage in open, serious, and meaningful negotiations with leaders of Tibet and East Turkestan,” Kadeer said, using the Uyghurs’ own name for China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Dolkun Aysa, chairman of the Eastern Turkestan Union in Europe and general secretary of the World Uyghur Congress, led a three-hour protest in Munich on March 18 to show solidarity with the Tibetans.

“The main purpose of this demonstration is to show solidarity and cooperation between Tibetan and Uyghur people and to inform the world” about Chinese repression, Aysa said in an interview with RFA’s Uyghur service.

“We are cooperating with Tibetans to organize demonstrations expressing our full support for the Tibetan people, while at the same time informing the public and the media regarding the existence of the same problems, the same political reality, and the same suffering of the Uyghur people in Eastern Turkestan,” he said.

Original reporting by RFA’s Tibetan and Mandarin services. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translation by Karma Dorjee and Chen Ping. Produced and edited in English by Luisetta Mudie and Sarah Jackson-Han.

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