China 'Strikes Hard' in Tibet

Chinese authorities question thousands in a campaign that rights activists say is focused on finding participants in last year's Lhasa unrest.
2009-01-26
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Buddhist monks
Tibetan Buddhist monks, May 2008.
RFA photo

HONG KONG--Chinese authorities in Tibet have launched a 42-day "strike hard" campaign in the Himalayan region, rounding up thousands for questioning.

"Within three days of the launch of the winter "Strike Hard" campaign on Jan. 18, 2009, the Lhasa municipal public security bureau had deployed 600 officers and around 160 police vehicles, and had conducted raids on seven housing blocks, 2,922 rented houses, 14 guest house and hotels, 18 bars and three Internet cafés in Lhasa," the Chinese-language state-run Lhasa Evening News reported.

The paper said police had rounded up 5,766 suspects for questioning, according to a translation posted on the Web site of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democacy (TCHRD).

In addition, the Lhasa municipal government is now requiring all outside visitors wishing to stay for more than three days and less than a month in Lhasa to apply for a temporary residence permit from the police, or face legal action, the TCHRD said.

'Sudden' police visits

An employee of a Tibetan-run guesthouse in Lhasa identified as Dajie said she had heard about the "Strike Hard" campaign.

"Yes, that's right," she said. "We don't know when the police will come, but they will come all of a sudden."

"The consequences [of not ensuring that all guests have identification] are very serious. They would close down the guesthouse."

She said there was still a strong police presence on the streets of Lhasa. "They are People's Armed Police," she said.

An employee at another Tibetan-run guesthouse said guests must have national identity cards in order to stay at the hotel.

"We can't let them stay without one," she said. "Everyone is being checked. We have to report foreigners checking in within 24 hours of their arrival. The same goes for visitors from Hong Kong."

Tibetans targeted

TCHRD assistant director Jampa Monlam said the authorities were targeting Tibetans without some form of official identification, like a work permit, driving license, or national identity card.

"I think the vast majority of them are Tibetans, because in the past few days the Lhasa municipal government has announced that anyone staying in Lhasa for longer than three days and less than a month has to apply for a temporary residence permit," he said.

"So it's fairly clear that the targets of this campaign are Tibetans without papers."

Monlam said that police questioning is still focused on last year's March 14 demonstrations which turned into rioting in Lhasa, and which sparked further unrest in many Tibetan areas of China.

"They are asking people where they were during the March 14 incident in Lhasa, whether they have an alibi, and so on. If you can't prove where you were during that time, you will probably be detained."

"Strike Hard" campaigns were first launched in China in 1983 with the primary objective of fighting crime and tackling corruption.

But rights groups say the motive behind their use in Tibet is entirely different, with the authorities using the campaigns to detain and harass human rights activists and supporters of Tibetan independence.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.