Chinese authorities have banned religious festivals and public gatherings and cut communication links in two restive Tibetan-populated areas in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, the scenes of Tibetan self-immolations challenging Chinese rule, according to sources.
The actions came ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Festivals and other large gatherings are now prohibited in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) prefecture of Sichuan, a Tibetan living in the area told RFA on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a rights group said communications have been cut and Tibetan schoolchildren had been barred from going home for the holidays in Gansu province’s Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the scene of seven self-immolation protests during the last month.
“Usually for three months in the winter, Tibetans in Kardze observe various religious ceremonies including fasting, mass prayers, and mantra recitations in the villages and towns,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But a few days ago, local Chinese officials told Tibetans living in the area that such large gatherings are forbidden during the time of the Party Congress,” beginning on Nov. 8 as President Hu Jintao prepares to transfer power to Vice-President Xi Jinping, his long-designated successor.
Tibetans who stage protests or engage in other unlawful activities during this period will be “severely punished,” according to the source, a resident of the area.
“So, the local Tibetans are going to cancel all religious gatherings,” the source said, adding, “They are very disappointed.”
Separately, the India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) reported on Monday that Chinese officials have imposed a “near-total information blockade” in Gansu province’s Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
“Sources from the area have also reported the closure of Internet cafes and weak or no mobile phone signals,” TCHRD said in a Nov. 5 statement from its office in Dharamsala, home of Tibet’s government-in-exile.
“Residents say mobile phone signals work only when they cross the Kanlho border,” the rights group said.
“Local authorities have also restricted the sale of petrol and other flammable liquids,” making travel difficult for Tibetans who rely on motorcycles and other gas-driven vehicles, TCHRD said.
Kanlho has been the scene of frequent anti-China protests by Tibetans, with seven setting themselves ablaze in October to call for Tibetan freedom and the return to Tibet of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
In Kanlho’s Tsoe (in Chinese, Hezuo) county, authorities have barred Tibetan schoolchildren from going home for the holidays, turning area schools into “mini prisons,” TCHRD said.
Permission to leave school grounds is granted “sparingly [and only for] a couple of hours.”
In a separate report, TCHRD said on Tuesday that Chinese authorities have handed down prison terms to five Tibetan monks sentenced for their involvement in Jan. 23 protests in Draggo (in Chinese, Luhuo) county in Sichuan’s Kardze prefecture.
Tulku Lobsang Tenzin, 40, of Gochen monastery was given a seven-year term, while Geshe Tsewang Namgyal, 42, and Tashi Thubwang, 31 and also called Dralha—both from Draggo monastery—were sentenced to six years each.
Monastery shop manager Trinlay was handed a five-year term, and senior caretaker Geshe Tenzin Palsang, also known as Tenga, was sentenced to six years.
Chinese security personnel used lethal force to suppress the Jan. 23 protest, killing at least six Tibetans and injuring 43.
Three Tibetans—Yonten Sangpo, Tashi Dargye, and Namgyal Dondrub—remain missing after being detained following the protest, TCHRD said.
Reported by Norbu Damdul Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.