Chinese authorities are setting up police surveillance stations and other checkpoints across Tibet to monitor the activities of ordinary citizens and travelers approaching the capital city, Lhasa, in the latest move to tighten security in the region, according to Tibetan sources.
The security measures come following protests in Tibetan-populated areas against Chinese rule and calling for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, including a wave of self-immolations highlighting the plight of Tibetans.
Religious pilgrims going to Lhasa and others who are found without proper identification are stopped on the road and sent back to their places of origin, a Tibetan from the eastern region of Kham told RFA this week, saying he had just recently arrived in Lhasa.
“Pilgrims are required to carry personal identification and Chinese ration cards. Those found without them are turned back,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“I saw over 50 checkpoints during my journey,” the man said, adding that new checkpoints have been established to the east of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) counties of Pome, Pashoe, and Nyingtri.
“Before reaching Lhasa, travelers and pilgrims are again thoroughly checked at Rito town in Maldro Gongkar county,” he said. “They are asked about the reasons for their trip and about where they will be staying.”
Demands for information
Even after this strict scrutiny, travelers are not allowed to stay in Lhasa for more than a month, and must register with Lhasa police on their arrival and when they depart, he said.
“They are asked to provide the address of their place of residence in Lhasa and about the people providing them accommodation, including information about those people’s jobs.”
“They also have to report to the police each week,” he said.
Pilgrims from the eastern regions of Kham and Amdo, the scene of repeated self-immolations and other protests by Tibetans challenging Chinese rule, face particularly heavy restrictions, he said.
Meanwhile, Lhasa Tibetan Radio reported on May 5 that about 50 roadside police booths have been set up in Chamdo county in the TAR’s Chamdo prefecture, with plans under way to set up other surveillance stations in 10 other counties in the prefecture.
The booths in Chamdo county are already fully staffed and functioning, the state-controlled radio service said.
Around 130 similar booths—called “dogs’ dens” by local Tibetans—are already in operation in Lhasa city, a second Lhasa-area source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
Reported by Soepa Gyaltso and Lobsang Sherab for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney