Authorities in a Tibetan-populated county of China’s Sichuan province have imposed controls on the movement of area residents, forbidding travel by Tibetans during the run-up to the 60th anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, sources say.
The clampdown blocks travel by Tibetans living in Dege county in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture until after March 10, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.
“Not only are they forbidden now to travel outside the county, but they are restricted from moving even between villages and towns on March 10 itself,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Tibetans have been ordered to stay at home on that day,” the source said, adding that Chinese security officers have been deployed in the area to make sure the new restrictions are obeyed.
Tightened controls over social media in Dege are also in effect, the source said.
“During this last week, cell phone users have not been able to open and listen to overseas news content shared on WeChat,” a popular social media platform, the source said. “And word is going around that on March 10, all WeChat users will be blocked.”
Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan university student living in China said that school faculty at the Minzu University of China, a school for ethnic minority students in Beijing, have been told to keep “a close watch” on Tibetan students during the run-up to March 10.
“This is to prevent any protests, and precautions like this are nothing new at universities where there are Tibetan students,” the source said, also speaking on condition his name not be used.
Meanwhile, a government order in Gansu province’s Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is directing the managers of online chat groups to closely monitor content sharing and conversations on their groups.
“March is a significant month for maintaining security and stability, and the managing and regulation of WeChat should be strengthened to prevent any illegal content sharing and dissemination of information that harms the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party and the nation,” the directive says.
“Violations of relevant laws will result in sentences of eight years in jail,” the order adds.
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 and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.