I'll be there for you

24th October 2012

Chinese friends... the new approach to control

A friend who calls on you offering support, asking about your family and offering trips away.

This seems nice enough but if you're a Tibetan in Tibet, you're being spied upon.

Free Tibet has been told that Chinese security forces have adopted a new, sinister approach to control in Drango; replacing crackdowns with smiles.

Drango protest

Following the protests in January and disappearance of monks, the government has decided that a softer approach could be the answer.

Every Tibetan family in Drango has been given a 'Chinese friend'. These are Chinese officials who watch over them. Each official looks after five Tibetan families.

They try to extract information by befriending Tibetans and asking seemingly innocuous questions such as:

  • 'Have you spoken to any of your relatives abroad recently?'
  • 'Have you bought any petrol recently?'

Of course these pleasantries actually mean:

  • 'Are you spreading information about protests?'
  • 'Are you planning on setting yourself on fire?'

As the saying goes, with friends like these...

Rewards scheme

Chinese officials are also offering rewards for what they deem ‘good behaviour’:

  • Some people are offered water installation in their homes instead of having to walk to fetch it
  • Monastic officials received a ‘friendly travel tour’ of Chinese cities
  • The elderly were promised a pilgrimage to Lhasa; although this trip was later cancelled after the double self-immolation protest there

Tibetans in fear

This policy, absurd as it is, is just one part of a wider issue. Phone lines and internet access have been restored in Drango, but Tibetans are worried that they are being bugged.

At least 32 people have been sentenced for their part in the protests – one for life.

Nine months on, the people of Drango still live in fear - having 'Chinese friends' appointed to watch over them only adds to this.

Fifth monk

Meanwhile, a fifth monk from Drango Geshe Tenzin Phalsang is still missing after being taken by security forces on 2 April, for helping the injured who were shot during the protest. No one has heard anything from him since.

Free Tibet is already campaigning for the release of four other monks who disappeared in January.

Campaign for the release of the Drango Four here.