Authorities in northwest China’s Qinghai province have clamped down on social media and deployed large numbers of armed police to Tibetan villages and towns in an effort to discourage celebrations of the July 6 birthday of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a source in the region says.
The heavy presence of security forces in Qinghai’s Malho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture have left area residents fearful and intimidated, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
Chinese authorities routinely clamp down on Tibetans’ freedom of expression and movement during politically sensitive anniversaries, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But the authorities are especially anxious this year about activities by the Tibetans on the anniversary of [the Dalai Lama’s] birthday, and are concerned there may be celebrations,” the source said.
Tightened restrictions include warnings recently issued to the managers of social media chat groups, urging them to restrict any sharing of “secret, internal” information by Tibetans and to keep an eye out for attempts to organize celebrations of the birthday of their spiritual leader.
Celebrations, photos forbidden
The Dalai Lama, who turns 83 this year, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been harshly punished in the past.
In June, two Tibetan businessmen in a Tibetan prefecture of neighboring Sichuan were detained after being found in possession of photos of the Dalai Lama, a source in Sichuan’s Draggo county told RFA in an earlier report.
“Officials have also ordered the Tibetans to cut any ties they may have to ‘separatist’ forces outside China,” he said.
“Separatism” is a charge often leveled against Tibetans calling for greater cultural or religious rights in their historic homeland, now ruled from Beijing.
China recently issued nine new internet regulations effectively banning political discussions on chat groups online, threatening chat group organizers with punishments imposed “according to law,” RFA’s source in Malho said this week.
“The Tibetans are feeling angered and upset in this repressive environment,” the source said.
Reported by Dawa Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.