Chinese authorities in Tibet are tightening security and carrying out arrests in the regional capital Lhasa and along Tibet’s border with Nepal in the run-up to a month of politically sensitive anniversaries beginning in March, sources in the region say.
Among those taken into custody are Tibetans suspected of sharing information on the deaths of Chinese soldiers killed in a border clash with India last June in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh, a source in Lhasa told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Monday.
“The Chinese government has increased these arrests and crackdowns in Lhasa and in border areas,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And those who are suspected of exchanging information regarding the deaths of the Chinese soldiers on the border are immediately arrested.”
“They have also deployed more blue-uniformed soldiers in Lhasa and in [Shigatse prefecture’s] Nyalam county,” an area located along the mountainous border with Nepal,” the source said, adding, “and authorities are stepping up their checks on the use of social media in Tibet these days.”
Chinese authorities in Tibet maintain tight controls over information flows in the region, arresting Tibetans for sharing news and opinions on social media and for contacting relatives living in exile, sometimes with news of anti-China protests, according to rights groups and other experts.
Particular targets of censors and police are images of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama shared on mobile phones and calls for the preservation of the Tibetan language, now under threat from government orders to establish Chinese as the main language of instruction in Tibetan schools.
‘More restrictions in place’
China does not want reports of conditions inside Tibet to spread outside the country, Tsewang Dorjee, a researcher at the Dharamsala, India-based Tibet Policy Institute, told RFA.
And with March 10, observed by Tibetans around the world as National Uprising Day, approaching in just a few days, “the authorities are putting more restrictions in place and cracking down even harder on Tibetans,” Dorjee said.
“And not only in Tibet, but also in China, the government has imposed tighter restrictions all around because there have been more criticisms from citizens on how the Chinese Communist Party handled the border dispute,” he said.
“Though India quickly acknowledged the names and numbers of its dead on the border, China did not comment on its own casualties until September,” Dorjee said.
Politically sensitive anniversaries
China regularly tightens security in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa and in other Tibetan areas of China during important political gatherings in Beijing and in March, a month of politically sensitive anniversaries.
On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest of Beijing’s tightening political and military control of the formerly independent Tibet, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed.
And on March 14, 2008, a riot in Lhasa followed the suppression by Chinese police of four days of peaceful Tibetan protests and led to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.
The riot then sparked a wave of mostly peaceful protests against Chinese rule that spread across Tibet and into Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces, and hundreds of Tibetans were detained, beaten, or shot as Chinese security forces quelled the protests.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.