Friday, February 3rd: Tibet Media Eruption

The growing magnitude of the crackdown is finally drawing increased media scrutiny, although reporters are being barred from entering Ngaba and Kardze. I’ll try to get through all the major points in one post, but if more articles keep coming out at this rate there might be cause for a second one later.

First, RFA reports on the situation in Lhasa:

“Any migrants in Lhasa have been placed under surveillance as of [Tuesday],” Jampel Monlam said. “Any Tibetans from outside Lhasa who haven’t got a temporary residence permit are being thrown out of the city.”

“Some of them are being transported back to [Tibetan] areas of Qinghai and Sichuan.”

He said some Lhasa-based Tibetans had also been detained, apparently as a precaution. “They are probably afraid that there will be some kind of political problem.”

Lhasa officials have been told to tighten management of the city’s migrant population by changing housing rental, household registration, and transitory residential permit issuance policies, the paper said.

Regional border checkpoints will now require anyone entering Tibet to carry identification starting from March 1.

An employee surnamed Zhao who answered the phone at a Lhasa-based travel agency on Thursday said there were virtually no tourists left in the city.

“There’s no one here,” he said.

He said police had recently stopped issuing two-month and three-month tourism permits to Tibet to foreign nationals.

Next, ICT has more images from inside Tibet, this time of the aftermath of the shooting in Serthar.

The Guardian is reporting that China has cut off internet and mobile phone service to much of Tibetan Sichuan:

“After the riots, internet connections and mobile phone signals were cut off for over 50km [30 miles] around the riot areas. Police believe external forces played a part in the riots,” the newspaper said.

In 2009, China cut off internet and text messaging services across the north-western region of Xinjiang after ethnic riots in the capital, Urumqi, left almost 200 dead.

Officials blamed “trained separatists” for instigating the events in Ganzi. They have also sought to blame outsiders for a string of self-immolations by Tibetan clergy and laypeople over the last year, mostly in Sichuan.

China appears to have stepped up security across other Tibetan areas, with the top party official in Lhasa urging security forces to increase surveillance of monasteries and main roads in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

This is another one of the those cases where China gets hemmed in by its own ludicrous propaganda. Because every problem needs to be blamed on “external forces,” they have to cut all ties to the outside world, which makes everything seem even more suspicious to foreign journalists. Does cutting off the internet and cellphone network actually break lines of communication with the nefarious plotters of the unrest, or does it just mean that a) people who would otherwise be sitting around in internet cafes are instead on the streets and b) anger everyone in the area who can’t live normally without telephones? I’m pretty sure the Egyptian government didn’t do itself any favors when it tried the same tactic.

Next, Reuters speculates that these intense showdowns could be a taste of what China is in for if the Dalai Lama passes in exile:

China’s hardline rulers may have reason to miss him when he’s gone. The aging spiritual leader’s presence and message of non-violence have kept a damper on unrest but, once he dies, things could worsen rapidly.

With unrest in once-quiet areas of the Tibetan plateau and little prospect for direct talks between China and the Tibetan government-in-exile, concern is growing that violence will boil over upon the death of the Dalai Lama.

If nothing changes, Beijing will likely respond with the same tough measures it has used for decades.

“Given the centrality of the demand among Tibetans that the Dalai Lama be allowed to return to Tibet, were he to pass away in exile abroad, it could spark an unpredictable wave of protests far greater than 2008 and an even harsher crackdown,” Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said.

While Lhasa erupted in violence in the 1980s and 1990s, Tibetans in Sichuan, Qinghai and other regions were calm. Sichuan has also seen violence and even traditions are changing.

Barnett said some in those eastern areas who typically celebrate their new year at the same time as most Chinese are delaying the holiday about a month to coincide with the new year of central Tibetans, who for centuries have been more closely aligned with the Dalai Lamas.

“China has turned vast areas of the Tibetan plateau into areas of Tibetan national sentiment,” he said.

“Why they imposed this policy in eastern Tibet where there were no real problems — historians are going to be asking why did we do this? Why did we lose Tibet?”

Adrienne Mong from MSNBC was turned back at a checkpoint in Sichuan, and filed this report from Chengdu:

However, the crackdown taking place across China’s Tibetan communities is not so much just another stage of a cycle that’s repeating itself as it is perhaps growing evidence that March 2008 was a turning point.

“The region has never recovered from the 2008 repression,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch who monitors the region.

“That really was a turning point. We’re still in the aftermath of this very, very severe repression that took place in 2008…. Over the years, [Chinese officials] have shifted from trying to gain the consent of the Tibetan people to basically riding roughshod.”

Reports of the crackdown have been cast against the backdrop of several upcoming events: the Tibetan New Year, the anniversary of the March 10, 2008, protests, and the Chinese Communist Party Congress. The party congress, which takes place every five years, is an especially sensitive event this time as it will usher in a massive leadership changeover.

But Beijing has also painted itself into a corner.

“The government has no room for compromise, because they insist on this depiction of the reality that is absurd,” said Bequelin. A reality, he continued, that claims that Tibet is a harmonious place populated by happy Tibetan people grateful for the economic growth Beijing has brought them.

Finally (for now), RFA has more about how Tibetan pilgrims returning from India are being treated:

In a surprising move, China had earlier allowed about 9,000 Tibetans to travel to India to take part in the ten-day Kalachakra religious festival conducted in Bodh Gaya in January by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—a figure reviled by Chinese leaders as a separatist.

Upon their return over the last two weeks, however, Tibetans from the eastern regions of Amdo and Kham were “rounded up, transported, and interrogated by the Chinese authorities,” a source in Tibet’s exile community said, speaking on condition of anonymity and citing contacts in Tibet.

“They were asked about the places they visited in India, what the Dalai Lama told them, what they know of the plans of the Tibetan exile government, whom they met, and so on.”

Younger Tibetans in the group were questioned especially closely, the source said.

Tibetans returning to their China-controlled homeland via the Dram border post on the border with Nepal were taken directly to the central Tibetan city of Shigatse, the source said.

There, any Tibetans who had come from Amdo and Kham were forced onto trains and told to return to their native place.

“Normally, those pilgrims spend time in the Lhasa area and visit temples and other holy sites,” the source said. “But now, they were put onto trains and told to return to their hometowns [in the east].”

One group of Tibetan pilgrims from Amdo was sent on Feb. 2 by train from Lhasa to the Gansu provincial capital of Lanzhou, a source inside Tibet said.

“None of them knows what their fate will be when they reach Lanzhou,” he said.

Meanwhile, a microblog message from a Tibetan living in Lhasa described intensified surveillance by Chinese authorities in the city.

“Last night, Chinese police searched all the Tibetan families in our area three times,” the message read.

“They are especially hard on the Tibetan pilgrims returning from India. They are being harassed and interrogated again and again.”

Authorities in the Tibetan capital are also blocking news of recent protests in Tibetan-populated areas of China in which as many as six may have been killed and an unknown number injured, a Tibetan living in Lhasa said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The local media do not talk or write about those protests. The communication lines with those Tibetan areas in Amdo and Kham are cut off.”

“We are seriously concerned that the Chinese could be severely cracking down on the Tibetans in those areas,” he said.

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Filed under Dalai Lama, ethnic conflict, protests, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet, violence

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