Chinese security forces conducted “unprecedented” large-scale exercises this week in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa and in Tibetan-populated areas of Chinese provinces in anticipation of potential trouble as Tibetans marked the anniversary of a failed March 10, 1959 national uprising against Beijing’s rule, sources said.
Police and paramilitary units carrying out the show of force were “well armed and very intimidating,” a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.
“They have deployed huge contingents of police and armed paramilitary forces in Tibetan areas,” the source said, adding that units stationed on the main roads leading to county seats were searching and questioning Tibetan travelers.
Specially targeted areas in Tibetan prefectures of China’s Qinghai province included Chabcha (in Chinese, Gonghe) and Trika (Guide) counties in the Tsolho (Hainan) prefecture, and Bayan Khar (Hualong) county in the Tsoshar (Haidong) prefecture, the source said.
Forces were also deployed in Sangchu (Xiahe) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) prefecture of Gansu province, the source said, adding, “This is an unprecedented show of force in selected Tibetan areas on the March 10 anniversary.”
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled into exile following the failed March 10, 1959 uprising and now lives in Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan government in exile, or Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).
Meanwhile, police and paramilitary units in the Tibet Autonomous Region carried out a joint exercise in Lhasa on March 9 aimed at “protecting stability” and preventing self-immolations or other protests, according to Tibetan sources.
The show of force—described by one source as “massive”—included motorcades of armored vehicles and “menacing” movements by uniformed troops.
Tibetan blogger and poet Tsering Woeser, in a blog entry posted on Tuesday, noted that Tibetan government officials speaking in Beijing have sometimes described Lhasa as the “happiest” city in China.
“Then why do they need the commander-in-chief of stability maintenance headquarters to declare: ‘This exercise is our new starting point … We must watch closely to prevent individual extreme events such as self-immolations, violent terrorist events, and illegal gatherings,’” Woeser asked.
“Why should he promise to ‘strike hard as soon as any enemies jump out’?” she asked.
Tibetans have held sporadic demonstrations against human rights abuses by Chinese authorities and challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 127 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Yangdon Demo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.