Heavy Security is the New Normal in China’s Tibet

AP reports that security is still heavy in the streets of Tibet two years after riots engulfed Lhasa:

Their presence is so common that people in Lhasa were startled last week when the uniformed patrols seemingly disappeared. In their place, fit young men with military crewcuts — some wearing yellow and black track suits — marched in groups. The reason: a rare visit to the tense Tibetan capital by foreign reporters arranged by the government.

“Walking in the streets of the Barkhor and other parts of Lhasa, I realized all the army people had become plain-clothed overnight. Only today I learned that it was because the journalists were visiting,” said a Tibetan woman who declined to give her name for fear of official retribution.

This week opens an always edgy time in Lhasa: two weeks of anniversaries marking a Tibetan revolt in 1959 that failed, led Tibet’s theocratic ruler the Dalai Lama to flee into exile and brought the long-isolated, Himalayan region under Beijing’s direct control. In 2008, demonstrations that sputtered for days flared into a riot on March 14. Sympathy protests spread to Tibetan communities across a quarter of west China — the widest uprising against Chinese rule in a half-century.

Many Tibetan areas have lived under smothering security ever since and are unsteadily struggling to find normalcy amid the intrusive policing and a mix of government threats and economic incentives to toe the line.


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