50 Years after Uprising, a Clampdown on Tibetans

The New York Times reports on an increasing clampdown in Tibetan areas as authorities strive to avoid unrest as the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising approaches on March 10:

Now, the authorities have imposed an unofficial state of martial law on the vast highlands where ethnic Tibetans live, with thousands of troops occupying areas they fear could erupt in renewed rioting on a momentous anniversary next week. And Beijing is determined to keep foreigners from seeing the mass deployment.

In monasteries and nomad tents, villages and grasslands, the fury of Tibetans against Chinese rule has raged continuously since last year’s riots and the violent repression that followed. They are aware, too, that marks the 50th anniversary of a failed revolt against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile in India.

Signs of simmering resistance abound: Just last week, many of China’s six million Tibetans chose not to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in order to mourn Tibetans who suffered during the clashes last year. Monks have held rallies in parts of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. Last Friday, a monk from the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan set himself on fire in a market, prompting security officers to shoot at him, according to Tibetan advocacy groups. Local officials deny the shooting.

Official news reports are claiming that a monk has admitted to spreading a false rumor about the shooting of the burning monk. From China Daily:

A Tibetan monk has confessed that he made up and spread rumors that police had shot a young Tibetan who set himself on fire last Friday in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, local police said Thursday.

Jangkor, a monk at the Kirti Monastery in the Aba County of the Tibetan-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba, acknowledged that he lied to “create greater disturbances so as to attract attention from overseas.”

Meanwhile, Tibetan officials are playing down reports on rising tensions in Tibet and surrounding areas. AFP reports:

“There shouldn’t be big problems in Tibet,” Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the region, told reporters.

He was responding to a question about the upcoming anniversary which marks 50 years since the failed uprising led to the escape into exile of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s highest spiritual leader.

Speaking on the first day of the annual meeting of parliament in Beijing, Qiangba admitted that problems happened every year around the same time.

To understand just how large the gap in understanding is between the Chinese government and pro-Tibet groups, including the Tibetan government-in-exile, see two versions of Tibetan history. First, the government white paper “Fifty Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet,” via Xinhua, and a pamhlet titled “Independent Tibet – Some Facts,” (PDF) published by Rangzen, the world council of Tibetans for an independent Tibet.

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