Authorities in southwestern China’s Sichuan province are blocking internet access in a Tibetan prefecture in the run-up to a sensitive political anniversary, fearing Tibetan residents may organize protests inspired by exiles living outside the country, sources say.
The move blocks service in 10 counties of the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and remains in effect through March 17, according to a document issued by prefecture authorities and obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Now, because of the March 10 anniversary of National Uprising Day, the authorities are concerned that residents of Tibetan areas could create problems under the influence of activities organized outside the country,” one resident of the area told RFA.
“The authorities have therefore blocked internet service so that Tibetans cannot see, hear, or read about protests or other activities organized by Tibetans [living in exile],” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Counties affected by the ban include Dartsedo (in Chinese, Kangding), Tawu (Daofu), Draggo (Luhuo), Kardze (Ganzi), Sershul (Shiqu), Dege (Dege), Palyul (Baiyu), Nyagrong (Xinlong), Lithang (Litang), and Bathang (Batang), according to the order, titled Document 24 of 2017.
Other, unspecified areas will also have service blocked, the order says.
“Based on past experience, the Ngaba [Aba] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture will also be affected,” a second Tibetan source told RFA.
Military parade held
Meanwhile, government employees in the neighboring Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) are being assigned in rotation to guard their offices around the clock, "and security is probably being heightened in [the TAR capital city] Lhasa,” the source said.
On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest of Beijing’s tightening political and military control of the formerly independent Tibetan region, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed.
Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in the midst of the uprising, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
On March 3 this year, Chinese troops staged a military parade in Lhasa that appeared “intended to discourage public protests or expressions of dissent,” New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a March 9 statement.
In addition, foreign travel to Lhasa has been closed for all of March, with the entire region placed on a security alert, HRW said.
“Chinese authorities are once again shutting off travel and holding military parades to bully the Tibetan population into silence,” HRW China director Sophie Richardson said.
“Progress on human rights is only going to happen if the Chinese government replaces its intimidation tactics with a more open approach to information, expression, and peaceful dissent,” Richardson said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.