Checkpoint on the Road to Lhasa

In the New Statesman, Tibetan dissident Tsering Woeser writes about the tightening government control over Tibet as a result of recent protests:

Early one summer morning in August, travelling from Golmud to Lhasa on the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, we came across the first checkpoint. A police officer wearing a dark cotton uniform used a flashlight to inspect our identity cards: “There’s a Tibetan? Tibetan, get out of the vehicle! Do you have a permit to enter Tibet? If not, you can’t enter!”

[…] Around the checkpoint there were all kinds of blockades. I said pointedly: “I’m not from the ‘four major Tibetan regions’.” This was because, one day in May, two Tibetans from other regions, doing contract work in Lhasa, self-immolated between the Jokhang Temple and the police station on Barkhor Street, where it was busiest with the military, police, tourists and believers. This brought the number of Tibetans who had self-immolated in recent years to 39. It is an unprecedented action of personal sacrifice and protest against the Chinese government.

Such protests have moved from the borders of Tibet to the hinterland, and the Tibet Autonomous Region issued an urgent notice requesting that Tibetans in the “four major Tibetan regions” of China, namely in the four provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, must have a certificate from the public security bureau of the local county to enter Lhasa. After this decision, another 14 Tibetans self-immolated, one of whom was a herdsman from near Lhasa.

[…] I once discussed an important question with Tibetans from the Amdo, U-Tsang and Kham regions: had Tibetans been right to protest in 2008? Some think the protest incurred severe repression and even tougher policy reform, so that the little space that had previously been won rapidly diminished. But we think this outcome was not related to the protest. It just turned the lukewarm water used to boil a frog into boiling water.

In March 2008, widespread protests broke out in Tibet ahead of the Olympic torch relay’s trip across China. Since 2009, more than 60 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Beijing’s policies in the region. See more on Tibet protests via CDT.


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