Updated at 4:35 p.m. EST on 2014-05-30
Chinese authorities in a protest-hit Tibetan county in Sichuan are forcing area residents to participate in training designed to counter self-immolations and other protests challenging Beijing’s rule in Tibetan areas, according to local sources.
One exercise held this week in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county’s main town and directed by Chinese security services included numbers of Tibetan government employees who were coerced to take part, a resident of the area told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.
“Tibetan employees in the Kardze area were forced to participate in an official mock exercise in Kardze town on May 26,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sichuan’s Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in which Kardze county lies, has been the scene of many of the self-immolation protests staged since 2009 by Tibetans opposing Chinese rule and calling for the return of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
Along with participating in burning protests, Tibetans in Kardze have also championed Tibetan language and religious rights, causes frequently opposed by Chinese authorities as expressions of Tibetan national and cultural identity.
“[Tibetans] were threatened that they and their parents and other family members would be investigated if they refused to be involved in the exercise,” the source said, adding, “So many had no choice but to participate.”
Also taking part in the exercise were Chinese armed police, regular police, and other personnel “assigned to watch Tibetan activities in the town,” he said.
A total of 131 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze to date in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed Kardze county, instead of Kardze prefecture, as the scene of several self-immolation protests. To date, one self-immolation has taken place in Kardze county, while similar protests have occurred in other counties in Kardze prefecture.