Chinese paramilitary troops have poured in large numbers over the last few days into a Tibetan-populated county of western China’s Sichuan province, openly intimidating local residents and raising fears of a clash, Tibetan sources in the region and in exile say.
The heightened security presence in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county in the Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture comes just a week ahead of Losar, the Tibetan Lunar New Year, which is celebrated for two weeks in large gatherings across Tibetan regions.
It has also raised tensions in a community already rocked by earlier protests and burdened by tight security controls, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.
“This area especially is always under strict Chinese control,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Over the last few years, the Chinese have opened new police stations and set up barracks in the county and nearby areas, and troops are stationed here throughout the year.”
“But now they are bringing in more troops, with many trucks arriving in just the last few days,” he said.
“The security forces are displaying a hostile attitude toward the Tibetans and are openly intimidating them, hurting local feelings,” he added.
With large numbers of Tibetan nomads now also arriving in the county’s main town to buy supplies for New Year’s celebrations, tensions between Tibetans and security forces could easily lead to protests, he said.
Also speaking to RFA, a Ngaba resident said that “unusually large” numbers of Chinese paramilitary police and other security forces are now present in the town.
“Checkpoints have been set up along the roads at a distance of every four or five Tibetan houses, and police are checking everyone’s identification papers,” the source said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The local people are saying that threatening behavior by the Chinese may cause another disturbance,” he said.
“The entire county is in a heightened state of alert,” Sonam, a Tibetan living exile in Switzerland, told RFA, citing contacts in Ngaba.
Armed to the teeth
Military and police personnel “armed to the teeth” had earlier been deployed in Ngaba in December following a self-immolation and other protests, Sonam said.
“Now, as the Tibetan New Year approaches, a large number of military trucks have arrived in Ngaba county.”
“Additional forces were sent to [Ngaba’s] Kirti monastery to beef up surveillance there,” he said.
Kirti monastery has been the scene of repeated self-immolations and other protests by monks, former monks, and nuns opposed to Chinese rule in Tibetan areas.
Authorities raided the institution in 2011, taking away hundreds of monks and sending them for “political re-education” while local Tibetans who sought to protect the monks were beaten and detained, sources said in earlier reports.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 136 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service, and by Dan Zhen for the Mandarin Service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma and Jennifer Chou. Written in English by Richard Finney.