Chinese security forces in Lhasa have rounded up hundreds of residents and pilgrims in the wake of a fiery weekend self-immolation protest in Tibet’s capital, as the Tibetan burnings in protest against Chinese rule rage on, sources said.
Locals detained are being held in detention centers in and around Lhasa while many of those from outside the Tibet Autonomous Region have been expelled, sources said, with one estimating that about 600 Tibetans had been detained so far.
The move came amid a security crackdown by Chinese security forces since two young Tibetan men set themselves ablaze on May 27 in front of Lhasa’s famed Jokhang Temple to protest China’s rule in Tibetan regions.
One of them died and the other was taken to hospital, state media reported.
The self-immolations were the first reported in the Tibetan capital. Nearly all of the previous 35 burnings by Tibetans challenging rule by Beijing and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama had taken place in China’s Tibetan-populated provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu.
On Wednesday, in the latest self-immolation, a Tibetan woman set herself ablaze in Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang) county in the Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the epicenter of the burnings which began in February 2009.
Chinese police have begun a general sweep of Lhasa city since the Sunday self-immolation protests, sources said.
“Following the self-immolations, pilgrims from Kham and Amdo [regions located mainly in Sichuan, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces as well as in parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region] are being arbitrarily rounded up, with some being expelled from Lhasa,” a Tibetan woman living in the area said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Tibetans living in Lhasa estimate that more than 600 Tibetans were detained on May 29 and are now being held at the Tsel Gungthang detention center,” the woman said.
“Today, on May 30, almost no one is walking around the ring road of the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple for fear of arrest,” she said.
“[Shopkeepers] who are not coming to open their roadside stalls near the Jokhang are being warned by police that their property will be confiscated if they do not open their shops,” she added.
Following the burnings on Sunday, “around 80 Tibetans were detained on May 27 and 28 on suspicion of having recorded the protest on their cameras or cell phones,” a former Tibetan political prisoner living in India said, citing contacts in the region.
Most of those detained, “both men and women,” are being held in detention centers in Gutsa and at Trizam in Nyethang, the man, named Ngawang, said.
On May 27, foreign tourists found at the self-immolation site were taken quickly back to their hotels and their cameras were thoroughly searched, and some were told to leave Tibet, he said.
Reported by Norbu Damdul and Dondrub Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translations by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.