Chinese Police Make Show of Force in Tibetan Areas as Party Congress Opens

Local residents are also warned not to discuss politics or share news or photos with outside contacts.

A map showing the location of the Golog region in China's Qinghai province.

Chinese security forces are being deployed in large numbers to Tibetan-populated counties in Qinghai province as a major five-yearly meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party gets under way in Beijing, sources say.

On Oct. 18, the opening day of the 19th Party Congress, armed police arrived in convoys and began conducting military drills in the streets of towns in the Golog (in Chinese, Guoluo) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.

“They have also been posted at the intersections of major roads in order to intimidate the people.” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Golog counties affected by the move include Darlag (Dali), Chigdril (Jiuzhi), Pema (Banma), Gade (Gande), and Machen (Maqin), the source said, adding that Tibetan residents were warned last month not to send photos or video clips of police activity to contacts outside the region.

“They also advised local Tibetans not to discuss politics with outside contacts or to watch or listen to news about Tibet from broadcasters overseas,” he said.

“They were told they would face severe consequences if they were caught doing any of these things.”

Tibetan areas of neighboring Gansu province are also burdened now by tightened controls, the source said.

“In this intimidating environment, Tibetans are too frightened to talk to anyone outside their own areas,” he said.

Troops, special forces in Lhasa

In the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region, now temporarily closed to foreign visitors, China has meanwhile “dramatically tightened control in Tibet in advance of the 19th Party Congress in Beijing from October 18,” the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in an Oct. 17 statement.

“Massed ranks of troops and special forces gathered in Lhasa and other cities in the Tibet Autonomous Region for intimidating military drills in which soldiers swore allegiance to 'protecting the 19th Party Congress,'” ICT said.

Reached by a reporter on Wednesday, several Lhasa residents declined to speak, quickly hanging up the phone.

In Tibet’s Shigatse city, though, a Chinese businessman noted an increased presence of police patrol cars and public security officers carried in military trucks.

“These days you can also see more ambulances and firefighting trucks traveling on the roads. But this isn’t causing us any inconvenience,” he said.

Authorities across China have recently stepped up nationwide “stability maintenance” measures targeting anyone with a critical opinion of the ruling Chinese Communist Party or Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the Party’s 19th Congress, which will be held in Beijing from Oct. 18 to 28.

Among other moves, authorities have banned travel to Tibet from outside the politically sensitive region while the top-level meetings are held, sources say.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Sonam Lhamo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.