Authorities in western China’s Sichuan and Qinghai provinces have strengthened security forces in Tibetan areas and checked visitors to hotels amid official concerns that the anniversary of a national uprising against Beijing’s rule might trigger further protests, sources in the region say.
In Rebgong (in Chinese, Tongren) county in Qinghai’s Malho (Huangnan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, paramilitary police and other security forces began to be deployed in large numbers starting March 10, a Tibetan resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“And their numbers have increased significantly since then,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Armed police and security officers in civilian clothes can now be seen near Rebgong’s Rongwo monastery, at major road crossings, and in the front courtyards of government buildings, and emergency personnel stationed in the area have been equipped with fire extinguishers to prevent self-immolation protests by Tibetans, the source said.
“Shops, restaurants, guest houses, and other places where people gather are being closely watched, with visitors from other areas being checked more closely than the locals,” he said, adding, “Police are also going to the hotels to check the IDs of guests, especially if they have come from other places.”
Some visitors coming from India are not being allowed to move freely, and must seek permission from town authorities to go anywhere at all, he said.
Meanwhile, in Qinghai’s Yushu (Yulshul) county, Chinese police and military vehicles are now more visible and can frequently be seen moving in convoy in the streets of the county town, a local source told RFA.
“People who have gathered in large groups are being directed to disperse and warned not to assemble again,” the source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.
“This show of force is intended to intimidate the general public and remind them of the ‘serious consequences’ they will face if any illegal activities take place,” he said.
Former prisoners warned
Veterans of earlier Tibetan protests living in Kirti monastery in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) county are meanwhile being warned to remain on monastery grounds during the politically sensitive March 10 period, a source in Ngaba said.
“Some of them also received calls from county police ordering them to report to their offices,” the source said.
“Many of them did report to police, but others refused, saying they had not committed any crimes that would require them to talk to the authorities,” he said.
Those being watched include former political prisoners, jailed after widespread protests swept Tibetan regions in 2008; monks and others detained on suspicion of supporting self-immolation protests; and some detained for staging solo protests in Ngaba town, the source said.
“All are being closely watched to see if they are speaking with outside contacts online or getting any information from outside Tibet,” he 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.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.