Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province are tightening controls on undocumented driving by Tibetans ahead of major meetings of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing later this month, Tibetan sources say.
New restrictions are now in place in Dzamthang (in Chinese, Rangtang) county in Sichuan’s Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, a source in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Many Tibetan nomads in the area own motorcycles and other vehicles, but few of them have driver’s licenses or registration papers, and authorities have left them alone and allowed them to travel freely until now,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
However, with the approach of the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, to be held in Beijing from Oct. 18 to 28, “authorities have begun imposing travel restrictions and are checking licenses and other documents,” the source said.
Police have recently been deployed in Dzamthang’s Barma town to monitor traffic in the area and check drivers for proper documents, the source said, adding, “Anyone caught without the right papers will be detained for 15 days and fined 2,000 yuan [U.S. $300].”
“Most Tibetans living in nomadic areas are fluent only in their own language, but to obtain licenses and registrations, applicants must be literate in Mandarin,” he said.
Police are also warning Tibetan residents of Dzamthang not to stage political protests or create “other incidents” while the Party meetings are being held, the source said.
Police in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Serthar (Seda) county have meanwhile issued orders barring motorcycle traffic in the county ahead of China’s Oct. 1 National Day celebrations, a Tibetan living in exile said, citing contacts in Serthar.
“In addition, authorities will seize any vehicles belonging to those caught driving without a license,” RFA’s source said.
Authorities in China have stepped up nationwide "stability maintenance" measures targeting anyone with a critical opinion of the Chinese Communist Party or President Xi Jinping ahead of the Party Congress.
Among other moves, authorities have banned travel to Tibet from outside the politically sensitive region while the top-level meetings are held, sources say.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.