May 07, 2012

Tibet: Tense Situation Following Security Crackdown

The situation remained extremely tense in the Dzogchen township in Sichuan following protests in reaction to a crackdown on a local monastery.

Below is an article published by Radio Free Asia:

Chinese authorities have beefed up security in a troubled Tibetan-populated township in Sichuan province about two weeks after massive protests against a crackdown on a local monastery and random detention of Tibetans, according to local residents.

The enhanced security presence has created tensions at the Dzogchen township in Dege county in the Kardze (Ganzi) prefecture, where 3,000 to 4,000 Tibetans led by monks had protested on April 25 to condemn the crackdown on the Dzogchen Monastery, the residents said.

The protesters withdrew after assurances by the Tibetan governor of Dege County that the security forces will be pulled out within three days. The forces left on the same day.

"Now the security frorces have returned with a larger contingent and the situation is extremely tense and sensitive," according to a Tibetan from the area reporting on the latest developments.

The reason for the security buildup is not clear.

Tibetans in Dzogchen were particularly concerned about the raids conducted by security forces on the Dzogchen Monastery last month, during which several monks were severely beaten, interrogated, and taken away, sources said. Police searches were also conducted on Tibetan homes around the monastery.

Another Tibetan source said Dzogchen was among 16 areas identified for "severe violent crackdowns" at meetings held in Dartsedo (in Chinese, Kangding) last month.

The meetings were aimed at bringing about "stability" in Sichuan, which has been rocked in recent months by self-immolations by Tibetans protesting Chinese rule. They were attended by officials from the central government and the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

In one of the meetings, some officials from TAR claimed that "severe and effective" security restrictions had helped prevent self-immolation protests in the region, suggesting that similar steps be taken in the Sichuan and Qinghai provinces.

The two provinces accounted for the bulk of the 35 Tibetan self-immolation protests against Chinese rule that have taken place since 2009.

The burnings had also triggered street protests in Tibetan-populated areas in Sichuan and Qinghai as well as Gansu province as Tibetans questioned Chinese policies which they say are discriminatory and have robbed them of their rights.

The protests had led to the detention of hundreds of monks from monasteries and jailing of scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights, exile sources said.

Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama had blamed Beijing's "totalitarian" and "unrealistic" policies for the wave of self-immolations, saying the time has come for the Chinese authorities to take a serious approach to resolving the Tibetan problem.

He called on the Chinese leadership to adopt a "holistic view" in resolving the Tibetan crisis instead of a "self-centered" approach, backed by power and wealth, to suppress the Tibetans.

Chinese authorities have labeled the self-immolators as terrorists, outcasts, criminals, and mentally ill people, and have blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging the burnings.