Tight Security in Tibet

China's leadership has called for 'stability' in Tibet as the anniversary of region-wide unrest approaches.

2011.03.09
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Lhasa Police 305 Chinese riot policemen in front of the Potala palace in Lhasa on June 20, 2008.
AFP

Chinese authorities in the Tibetan capital Lhasa have stepped up security ahead of a sensitive political anniversary, residents said.

An employee who answered the phone at a guesthouse with a mostly Tibetan clientele said police were now carrying out spot-checks on rooms in the middle of the night in case anyone had booked a room without registering with the police-monitored hotels database.

"There are a lot more checks being carried out at night now," the employee said.

"They can use their driver's license, their national identity card, or their household registration book [to register]," said the employee, a Tibetan himself.

"We don't have a single foreigner staying here. There aren't many [around on the streets]."

Asked if there was a link between security measures and the anniversary of ethnic unrest in Lhasa on March 14, the employee said, "Yes. I don't know."

Noticeable tightening

A Lhasa resident surnamed Zhang said security had been noticeably tightened in recent days.

"There are some villages and townships which it's hard to get to nowadays," he said.

"Security is pretty tight here [in Lhasa], with patrols every day in Potala Square."

He said there were also rooftop sentries posted around the Jokhang Temple, the city's largest temple and the most sacred and important temple for Tibetans.

"There are a lot of security guards there. They were there this time last year as well," Zhang said.

Armed police personnel had moved into Lhasa's Tibet University ahead of the March 14 anniversary, according to a Lhasa source familiar with the situation.

"Yes, that's right, the armed police patrols started from today," the Tibetan source said.

"They are supervising law enforcement and public order from today until the start of studies on March 14," he said.

He said Tibetans coming in and out of Lhasa were being pulled over at checkpoints.

"They are checking their identity cards," he said.

Kardze controls

Meanwhile, in the Tibetan prefecture of Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) in the southwestern province of Sichuan, local residents said the local authorities were on high alert.

"Yes, we are in a period of stability protection here, so it's very safe," said a Chinese resident surnamed Guo.

"There are troops stationed here and the police station up on the hill," she said.

"They have stepped up patrols lately."

Kardze, home to large groups of Tibetan nomads, has seen some of the most daring protests against the ruling Communist Party in recent years, focused in particular on calls to allow the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to visit the region.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, has accused Beijing of perpetrating "cultural genocide" in Tibet.

Beijing has run a high-profile "patriotic education" campaign among Tibetans since unrest spread across Tibetan regions from Lhasa in March 2008, requiring local people to denounce the Dalai Lama, whom the government rejects as a "splittist."

The Tibetan government-in-exile in India says about 220 Tibetans died and nearly 7,000 were detained in the subsequent region-wide crackdown. The Chinese government says rioting killed 22 people.

Sensitive anniversaries

Exiled Tibetan MP Kalsang Gyaltsen said the tighter security restrictions weren't limited to Lhasa.

"The parliament is having its annual sessions and the third anniversary of the March 14 unrest is nearly here," he said. "It is also the 60th anniversary of the so-called 'peaceful liberation' of Tibet."

"The security presence isn't limited to Jokhang Temple, it is spread throughout the Tibetan region," he said.

President Hu Jintao called in a speech to China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) on Sunday for stepped up security to ensure "stability" in Tibet.

"When President Hu attended the Tibetan affairs committee of the NPC along with the Tibet Autonomous Region Party secretary Zhang Qingli, they said Tibet would face a number of tough challenges this year," Kalsang Gyaltsen said.

"From this we can see that the Chinese have been unable to solve the Tibet question, even after 60 years of ruling the region."

"In fact, the problem has got worse in the last 60 years, because China has refused to learn the lessons of history and are pushing all responsibility onto the shoulders of the Dalai Lama," he said.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly called for a high degree of autonomy under Beijing's rule, including greater religious freedom for Tibetans.

But Beijing insists he is working for Tibetan independence, and has ruled him out of any role in Tibet's future.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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