As Tibetan New Year approaches, China tightens grip

A senior Chinese official has ordered tighter security in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and on main roads following deadly protests in Tibetan-inhabited Sichuan province.

Kyodo News/AP
Armed Chinese police officers patrol a Tibetan area of Chengdu in China's Sichuan province, neighboring Tibet, Tuesday. Tibetan areas in Sichuan, on tenterhooks for more than a year as more than a dozen monks, nuns and lay people separately set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule, saw large demonstrations last week.

The Chinese authorities in Tibet are stepping up security to contain a wave of ethnic unrest ahead of a sensitive few weeks in the Tibetan calendar that could test Beijing’s control of the region.

Security forces in predominantly Tibetan areas of the neighboring province of Sichuan are on heightened alert after days of unrest last week that left six Tibetans dead and scores wounded, according to exile groups. Beijing has acknowledged two deaths, blaming the violence on “mobs” attacking police stations.

The deputy Communist Party secretary in Tibet, Wu Yingjie, visiting the town of Nagqu, 150 miles north of the capital Lhasa, warned police to “be on the alert” since “the fight against separatism is very tough,” according to Tuesday’s edition of the Tibet Daily.

The Communist Party chief in Lhasa, Qi Zhala, meanwhile, inspected two Buddhist monasteries and urged clerics and officials to “strive to achieve the goal of no big incidents, no medium incidents, and no small incidents,” the paper reported.

Journalists have been turned back from areas of reported unrest by the police, who have kept the region under lockdown, and have been unable to confirm events.

Simmering ethnic tensions are traditionally higher at this time of year, as Tibetans prepare both to mark their new year, which this year falls on Feb. 22, and to commemorate previous March uprisings, especially the one in 1959 that led to the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile.

Last week’s violence was the worst since Tibetan unrest in March 2008 left 22 people dead.

The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, called on Tibetans not to celebrate new year, but instead to “pay tribute to and pray for those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the just cause of Tibet.”

Sixteen Tibetans in Sichuan have set themselves on fire since March to protest Beijing’s restrictions on Tibetan culture and religious practice. Eleven of them have died.

US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero, said last week that Washington had “consistently” raised the issue of the self immolations with Beijing and has “repeatedly urged the Chinese government to address the counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people.”

The Chinese government has reacted fiercely to the immolations, seeking to blacken the names of some of the monks who resorted to such tactics by accusing them of thievery and womanizing. Tibetans found guilty of helping others to set fire to themselves have been sentenced to heavy jail terms.

That harsh response “has led people across a threshold,” says Robbie Barnett, a Tibetan affairs expert at Columbia University in New York. “Those who set fire to themselves are respected as representing society and protesting without causing violence to others.”

Tibetans are also frustrated by the lack of government response to their complaints about official controls on their culture and religion, such as forced political education classes for monks at which they are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, says Dr. Barnett.

“People expect the [Communist] Party to listen” when grievances spill over as they did in 2008, Barnett adds, “but this is not happening. The government’s credibility is dropping rapidly.”

 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to As Tibetan New Year approaches, China tightens grip
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2012/0131/As-Tibetan-New-Year-approaches-China-tightens-grip
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe