Tibet Under Clampdown

Two years after deadly riots against Chinese rule, Tibetans report tight security.

lhasa-305.jpg Chinese paramilitary police patrol in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, June 20, 2008.

KATHMANDU—Chinese authorities in the Tibetan capital Lhasa have sealed off key tourist areas and Buddhist temples ahead of sensitive political anniversaries, as the Dalai Lama accused Beijing of trying to annihilate Buddhism in the Himalayan region.

Police have “completely closed Potala Palace and the Jokhang” temple ahead of the 51st anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule Wednesday, and two years after deadly riots, one Lhasa resident said.

“No one is allowed in the area, and it was also ordered that no visitors are allowed in hotels or guesthouses in the area,” he said.

In the run-up to the second anniversary of the deadly riots in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, police have slowly built up a huge security presence in the city and surrounding countryside, sources said.

Lhasa residents said several hundred plainclothes police officers had been assigned to keep watch on Tibetans in teashops, restaurants, and night clubs.

Any Tibetans from out of town were stopped, checked, and questioned, they said.

“All government employees in Lhasa city have been ordered to remain on duty in their offices on rotation,” a second Lhasa resident said.

“Many of them were assigned earlier to watch on railway lines in remote areas ... possibly [they] fear sabotage aimed at the Lhasa-to-Golmud railway line,” he added.

Police visits

The same Lhasa resident said plainclothes, uniformed, and armed police were currently deployed in the city.

“They randomly knock on the doors of Tibetan families and ask if any new visitors are living in the house,” he added.

A third source in Lhasa said many Tibetans wanted to mark the 51st anniversary of the 1959 uprising in some way, but were unable to do so openly.

“The restrictions in Lhasa particularly from the eve of March 10 are extremely intense,” the man said. “Nevertheless we have to commemorate it individually.”

“When we see such heavy restrictions, our emotions are stirred up but we cannot do much except to pray to His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” he told a listener phone-in program on Tuesday.

Dalai Lama’s charges

This year, the anniversary of the 1959 uprising falls on a Wednesday, a weekday considered particularly auspicious for the Dalai Lama, who accused Beijing on Wednesday of trying to exterminate Tibetan Buddhism.

“Today, the Chinese authorities are conducting various political campaigns, including a campaign of patriotic re-education, in many monasteries in Tibet,” the exiled spiritual leader said in a speech to exiled Tibetans in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

“They are putting the monks and nuns in prison-like conditions, depriving them [of] the opportunity to study and practice in peace. These conditions make the monasteries function more like museums and are intended to deliberately annihilate Buddhism.”

But he vowed to press Beijing for further talks on Tibet.

“Judging by the attitude of the present Chinese leadership, there is little hope that a result will be achieved soon,” he said. “Nevertheless, our stand to continue with the dialogue remains unchanged.”

Some protests

A few dozen Tibetans demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in the Indian capital on Tuesday against the continuing security crackdown in Tibetan regions, including Lhasa.

More than 30 Tibetan youths tried to storm the embassy in New Delhi, with one chaining himself to the gates, before the protest was broken up by police, witnesses said.

Meanwhile, exiled Tibetans said Chinese authorities were stepping up controls at the border with India and pressing neighboring Nepal to carry out checks of Tibetans in the capital, Kathmandu.

“My relative has the proper visa to visit Tibet but he was told to go back from the Drum border post by the Chinese authorities ... They advised us to postpone by two months,” one Tibetan in Kathmandu said.

“Many Tibetans who have permits to visit Nepal and India are also being prevented from leaving Tibet,” he added.

Tibetan witnesses said Nepalese police raided several hotels and guesthouses in Kathmandu in recent days, checking the identity papers of guests and asking questions about the reason for their visit to Nepal.

Monks at the Samten Ling monastery in Kathmandu were also warned by police ahead of the March 10 anniversary against staging any events to mark it.

The 1959 uprising was crushed by Chinese troops within weeks, forcing the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, to flee his homeland.

Beijing regards the period that followed as the beginning of “democratic reform” in Tibet, but has maintained a strong military presence there, which was boosted in the wake of the 2008 unrest.

Original reporting by RFA's Tibetan service. Director: Jigme Ngapo. Translated from the Tibetan by Karma Dorjee. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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