China clamps down ahead of Tibetan revolt anniversary
Daofu, China: Military convoys rumble along winding mountain roads, the Internet has been cut in potential trouble spots and motorists must run a gantlet of inspection checkpoints as Beijing mounts a show of force in Tibetan areas to prevent a repeat of uprisings against Chinese rule.
A volatile period begins Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of a failed revolt that sent the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile.
'Writings in blood' emerge from Tibet ahead of revolt anniversary
A year ago, Tibetans erupted in protest — sometimes violently. Today, checkpoints and garrisons seem as numerous as the fortress-like Buddhist monasteries and white-domed shrines that dot the steep slopes and pastures of western China bordering Tibet. The result is a kind of martial law, with constant tension across a third of Beijing's territory.
In Daofu, a town in Sichuan province where Buddhist mantras are carved into the sides of 13,000-foot (4,300-meter) snow-dusted mountains, the streets where local nuns protested a year ago are calm. Officials say monasteries are closed to visitors, with monks remaining inside studying Buddhist scriptures.
While markets are bustling and many shopkeepers do brisk business, the atmosphere is steeped in watchfulness. Police cars and military trucks patrol dusty streets where prayer flags flutter from homes and Buddhist shrines.
"There have been thousands of police and troops here since the Lhasa riots last year. It has affected our lives," said one resident, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals by local officials. "Food is more expensive and harder to buy because the soldiers are eating a lot."
Dalai Lama leads Tibetans in special prayers
Authorities have purged monasteries of suspected agitators and enforced denunciation campaigns of the Dalai Lama.
Rumors that the spiritual leader would be kidnapped by Chinese authorities touched off the uprising in Lhasa on March 10, 1959, nine years after the communist army marched into the Tibetan regional capital.
Monks in Lhasa tried to stage a commemorative march last year, drawing a blockade by police. That set off protests that erupted in an anti-Chinese riot in Lhasa on March 14. Hundreds of shops were torched and ethnic Chinese attacked in the rioting that spread to dozens of communities before sputtering out last summer.
Tibet under siege ahead of anniversary, say activists
The Tibetan government-in-exile says 220 Tibetans died and nearly 7,000 were detained in demonstrations in Tibet and in Tibetan communities in three surrounding provinces. Beijing says 22 people died in Lhasa, most of them Chinese civilians. It has acknowledged deaths elsewhere but not provided a tally.
Amnesty International said Friday the region has been subjected to "a year of escalating human rights violations." The International Campaign for Tibet, a Washington-based group, says it has identified more than 600 people detained in the past year, and though some have been released, it says most are still in detention.
China has blamed the Dalai Lama and his exile movement for fomenting the unrest to restore a Buddhist theocracy that communist rule overturned. Despite the Dalai Lama's repeated insistence he wants autonomy for Tibetans — and not independence — the government on Saturday renewed its criticisms that he's a secessionist.
"The Dalai is by no means a religious figure but a political figure," Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in Beijing. "Our differences with him are not over religious issues, human rights, democracy or culture. It is about whether we should defend China's unity and prevent Tibet from being separated from China's territory."