Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county in northwestern China’s Qinghai province are tightening restrictions on local residents in the days surrounding two sensitive anniversaries of uprisings against Chinese rule, sources say.
Under the restrictions, Tibetans living in Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Rebgong county were banned from performing or panhandling in the street, while those visiting from outside of the area were being closely monitored in the lead up to anniversaries of a March 10, 1959 protest by Tibetans in Lhasa, and March 14, 2008 riots in the same city.
“Beginning on March 5, in the run-up to the March 10 Tibetan Uprising Day, Chinese authorities have tightened surveillance and security in Riwo Gongchen monastery in Rebgong,” a source told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The authorities have removed all beggars from the streets and surveillance has been strengthened on hotel guests in Rebgong,” the source added.
“People can only assemble outside in groups of two to five at a time. Buskers usually attract crowds in the street and because of the fear that these gatherings could give way to protests, the authorities have banned them from performing ahead of the March 10 anniversary.”
A second source, who also asked to remain unnamed, told RFA that Tibetans visiting Rebgong from surrounding counties for work had been “suspended from their duties,” and that any guests at hotels are being scrutinized by the police.
“Additionally, Tibetans from Qinghai who are going to Lhasa on [religious] pilgrimage are barred from traveling this month, and Tibetans have seen generally heightened restrictions on movement,” the source said.
According to the source, Tibetans living in India who have returned to the area to see family members and friends have been “summoned by the local police multiple times for interrogation” and told not to leave Rebgong.
The source said Chinese officials have even been visiting the homes of Tibetan parents whose children are studying abroad and warning them “not to mislead” the students while communicating with them, and that doing so could “affect their prospects when they return home.”
The increased controls are “due to the sensitive nature of this month,” he added.
China regularly tightens security in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa and in other Tibetan areas of China during important political gatherings in Beijing and in March, a month of politically sensitive anniversaries.
On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest of Beijing’s tightening political and military control of the formerly self-governing Tibetan region, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed.
And on March 14, 2008, a riot in Lhasa followed the suppression by Chinese police of four days of peaceful Tibetan protests and led to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.
The riot then sparked a wave of mostly peaceful protests against Chinese rule that spread across Tibet and into Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces.
Hundreds of Tibetans were detained, beaten, or shot as Chinese security forces quelled the protests, sources said in earlier reports.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.