Chinese military trucks sit at the base of the Potala Palace in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on 21 March, 2008 after violent protests broke out following days of demonstrations against Chinese rule. Photo: AFP
Travel agencies in the Tibetan capital said they had received approval from the ruling Communist Party’s Youth League to organize a “patriotic activity” on the arrival of the torch at the palace, formerly the heart of Tibetan Buddhism.
“The activity will take place in the main courtyard of the Potala Palace, and we are expecting tens of thousands of people to show up,” a travel agency employee surnamed Chen told RFA’s Cantonese service.
“There are thousands of people in our industry,” Chen said. “At least 20,000 people will be there. Han Chinese tourists can join in, but Tibetans are not welcome.”
An official from the Party Youth League in Lhasa said such an activity was possible.
“There is still a while to go until the torch relay arrives in Lhasa,” he said. “Maybe there will be this kind of activity.”
A bid to prevent more disruptions
Sources in the tourist industry in Tibet said the activity was aimed at preventing a repeat of the Tibetan pro-independence protests seen in London, Paris, and San Francisco.
China’s Olympic torch relay has been disrupted by protests in major cities, largely over Chinese rule in Tibet, where a wave of anti-government riots and protests erupted in March, triggering an armed crackdown.
Patriotic demonstrators have since marched in several Chinese cities to demand a boycott of French goods and targeted French supermarket chain Carrefour, after Tibet protesters wrestled with Chinese athletes, including a woman in a wheelchair, for the Olympic torch in Paris.
“The Olympic torch is coming to Lhasa, so we want to do this to protect the flame. It’ll be similar to pro-Chinese demonstrations you have already seen overseas,” Chen said.
“We will get together and wave the national flag, the red flag, and so on. We have already applied to do this and the Party Youth League has approved it,” he added.
Meanwhile, authorities elsewhere in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) were stepping up patriotic re-education campaigns in the wake of riots and anti-Chinese protests in Tibet.
An official in the Sangri county government said all officials had been ordered to attend patriotic education classes several times a week until after the Olympic Games, hosted this year in Beijing, were over.
“This is a kind of study initiated by our office,” he said. “Since the incident, we are especially focusing on this. Not every day. It depends.”Original reporting in Cantonese by Hai Nan. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.