China's crackdown grows as Tibetan self-immolations increase
|The string of 10 recent Tibetan self-immolations – six monks, three former monks, and a nun – is unprecedented in modern Tibetan history.|
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"The police wouldn't even let me into the town," said the monk, whose elderly uncle smiled a toothy grin and pulled a cell phone from the folds of his vest to show a visitor his picture of the Dalai Lama. "The living conditions for monks in Aba aren't very good, and there's a conflict now between the Han and the Tibetans there."Skip to next paragraph
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Standing in a prayer hall that a group of young monks was sweeping for a ceremony the next day, the soft-spoken man in a crimson robe and yellow fleece jacket said that, "a lot of these problems have roots in the 2008 troubles."
'We are all afraid of the government'
Here in Hongyuan, police now swarm the streets. Many of those patrolling the predominantly ethnic Tibetan town appear to be Han Chinese.
"A lot of people have been taken away by the government," said the livestock trader, who wore a puffy neon-blue jacket and jeans. "A lot of Tibetans feel that we aren't free. We aren't allowed to put up pictures of the Dalai Lama. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
He was joined by a group of friends, a couple of whom wore small likenesses of the Dalai Lama at the ends of thin leather necklaces that they tucked beneath their shirts.
One of them, another Tibetan trader in his early 20s, spoke up, "We are all afraid of the government."
A few blocks away, a policeman sat in his car and filmed every person who walked by an intersection.
Chinese officials have tried suppressing news about the extent of the security presence and pressure on Tibetans in places such as Hongyuan.
When the McClatchy reporter was stopped while traveling in the direction of Aba, one man in the small police stand where he was held set the ground rules: "It is against the law to write things down in here."
The reporter was told four different times that he could leave, only to be stopped by further demands: handing over his camera, explaining to two additional plainclothes officers why he was in the area and, finally, tearing out a page of notes that contained the name of a local police commander, Qiu Po.
In the meantime, a driver whom McClatchy had hired was taken outside and told that he could be arrested.
The next morning, a police officer visited the reporter's room in a hotel some four hours away. The officer said that news media were hereby forbidden from traveling in the direction of Hongyuan. It was permissible, he said, to remain near the town of Songpan, where Tibetans and Han Chinese dressed as Tibetans cater to tourist groups flying in every day from Beijing.
Later in the afternoon, a second police officer stopped the reporter outside the hotel and, accompanied by three men in plainclothes, questioned him about every detail of his trip.
The Han Chinese officer, surnamed Jiang, seemed particularly anxious to know what the Tibetans had been saying.