Chinese authorities in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and nomadic regions of southwestern China stepped up patrols of armed police on the third anniversary of widespread regional unrest on Monday, detaining one monk following a lone protest.
Local sources in the Tibetan prefecture of Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) in Sichuan province said the area was under a tight security clampdown after a local monk handed out leaflets marking the 52nd anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in the region on March 10, 1959.
The anniversary protest on March 10, 2008 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, escalated into violent riots four days later. More than a hundred people were subsequently killed in Chinese military crackdowns on peaceful Tibetan protesters over the following year, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile in India.
Foreign tourists were banned for a year following the riots and have since been banned from entering the area each year around the 14 March anniversary.
Tibetans in Tibet have marked the anniversary in covert ways in spite of the tight security, sources said.
Wangchen Gelek from Kardze's Dothong monastery shouted slogans calling for a "Free Tibet" at around noon amid a large crowd in the Kardze county marketplace last Thursday, sources said.
He then threw a bundle of leaflets and prayer flags in the air, shouting "Free Tibet!" and "Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama!"
Witnesses said he was pounced on by local police officers and beaten before being taken away. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Local residents organizing prayers for the monk said he had resigned from the monastery five days before his protest, and warned friends that they might never see him again.
However, not everyone in Kardze appeared to have heard of the protest.
"The special police have stepped up their patrols this year," said a Chinese resident of Kardze on Monday. "There is no sign of trouble."
"They are stopping people in the town, checking their identity cards," he said. "They are checking everything."
Hotel taken over
An employee who answered the phone at the local government guesthouse in nearby Seda county said the hotel had been completely taken over by local officials ahead of the anniversary.
"Yes [it's been taken over by the government]," the employee said. "There are no rooms ... Please call again in a few days."
He said normal business would resume on March 25. "There are a lot of armed police about, armed police patrols," he added.
Meanwhile, in Lhasa, the streets appeared calm.
"They have been greatly increasing the numbers of armed police patrolling [the city]," a resident surnamed Zhang said.
"[You can get into] the monasteries if you have an identity card ... The local people don't carry them, but everyone from elsewhere in China does."
Local sources said police personnel had moved into Lhasa's Tibet University ahead of Monday's anniversary, which also marked the beginning of a new semester in the Chinese academic year.
An employee at a Lhasa-based hotel said they had been banned from accepting any foreign guests until further notice.
"We can't take them," he said. "We are waiting for notification in April to be able to accept tour groups."
"We have to wait for orders from higher up, before we can take [foreigners]."
Exiled Tibetan parliamentarian Kalsang Gyaltsen said the tightened security measures had begun on March 10 across the entire Tibetan region.
"The whole region is under tight control and suppression," he said.
"They have recently boosted spending on law enforcement and stability, which suggests that they will continue to use these methods to deal with disadvantaged social groups and ethnic minorities."
But Kalsang Gyaltsen said Beijing's successful rule and stability in the region would not come through the use of security forces.
"They have to seriously consider the demands ... of that ethnic minority," he said.
"If they don't change their current policies, then every day, every month, every year, will have a 'sensitive' date in it."
Beijing's spending on domestic security surpassed the military budget for the first time, rising to 624.4 billion yuan (U.S. $95.3 billion) this year, compared with the People's Liberation Army budget of 601.1 billion yuan (U.S. $91.4 billion).
Reported by Norbu Damdul for RFA's Tibetan service, Qiao Long for the Mandarin service, and Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translation by Dorjee Damdul and Luisetta Mudie. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.