In the run-up to the anniversary of last year’s riots in Lhasa, and the 60th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising, tensions are rising in Tibetan areas. McClatchy Newspapers reports from eastern Qinghai:
On the cusp of the first anniversary of a mass revolt on the Tibetan Plateau that marked the worst ethnic unrest in China in nearly two decades, many Tibetans still seethe at living under China’s thumb. Some engage in small-scale civil disobedience. Others, including monks, brazenly display photographs of the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader they revere as a God-king but that China maligns as a “beast.” Nearly all gripe about a lack of religious and political freedom.
Another imminent anniversary date adds to the sensitivity of the Tibet issue. March 10 marks 50 years since the Dalai Lama fled across the Himalayas to exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Fearful of a spasm of new unrest, Beijing has closed off many ethnic Tibetan areas to journalists and made scattered arrests of organizers of resistance campaigns.
Tibetan monks, nomads and students interviewed recently by McClatchy Newspapers said ethnic tensions have deepened in this eastern region of Qinghai province, which still remains open to reporters.
Time Magazine reports from Qinghai that Tibetans are refusing to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which begins on February 25, in commemoration of last year’s violence:
If the sentiment in areas like Qinghai is anything to go by, further protests, arrests and possibly worse seem inevitable given the depth of anger among the Tibetan population. Most Tibetans here refused to undertake any of the public activities that usually mark the coming of the New Year. “There was no dancing or singing. No one let off fireworks, even though the Chinese gave people money to buy them,” says one young villager. He says the decision was not coordinated by outside forces (officials from Tibet’s government in exile have called for a boycott of the celebrations in interviews with the media) but is a spontaneous reflection of Tibetans’ anger over the deaths last March. “Everyone is still very sad and also very angry at the Chinese authorities for what happened. No one felt like celebrating.”
Meanwhile, in Sichuan, 21 Tibetans have reportedly been arrested for demanding the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama. And foreigners are being kept out of TIbet in the sensitive period around the anniversaries. From The Telegraph:
Foreigners require a permit to enter Tibet, but Youth Travel Service, one of the largest travel agencies, said few, if any, permits were being issued.
“It is very very difficult to get a permit at the moment. We will have to wait and see when they become available again,” said a spokesman.
Another company, Tsedang China Travel, said it was unsure whether travel would even be possible in April. Mr Wan said the ban on foreigners was for “sensitive, political, reasons”.
Update: The Washington Post has details on the protests in Lithang County, Sichuan, which is now under lockdown, according to the report:
Zhou Xiujun, owner of a grocery store, said she witnessed a small protest near the county’s main vegetable market Feb. 15 that escalated into a much larger one around lunchtime Feb. 16. On the second day, she said, she saw several hundred Tibetans gathered downtown shouting, “Long live the Dalai Lama,” the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists who lives in exile in India. In just a few minutes, she said, squads of police arrived and a melee ensued.
At least one Tibetan protester was swinging a stick, she said, and others were throwing stones. The policemen subdued them using what she called “electronic sticks” and tear gas.
The Guardian also has a report.
AP also reports that Tibetan Buddhist clergy have been warned about engaging in any political activity, while the New York Times reports that security has been stepped up in Tibet and Tibetan areas of Sichuan and Qinghai:
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said last week that “the situation in Tibet is stable.” But a monk from Lhasa, reached by phone, said, “There are a lot of soldiers and People’s Armed Police in the streets,” referring to China’s main paramilitary force. Like almost all the people interviewed for this article, the monk agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
The monk said he, like thousands of other monks, had not been allowed to return to his monastery after being imprisoned for several months last year after the March uprising. Many of the main monasteries are being emptied out, he said. There are only about 400 monks now in the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, he said, a small fraction of the number before the uprising.