New images confirm China flooding Tibet with troops on eve of Tibet new year

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

New images confirm China flooding Tibet with troops on eve of Tibet new year:

Tibet at crisis point as China vows to ‘crush’ Dalai Lama supporters

Pictures obtained by Free Tibet(1) display huge numbers of armed Chinese troops and police recently arrived in the Tibetan monastery town of Labrang (Ch: Xia He, Gansu province).

The photographs, taken between 7 and 11 February this year, reveal an intimidatory show of force by the Chinese authorities in Labrang: two images show large numbers of troops armed with riot shields, drilling in Labrang’s main square; another shows police clearly armed with riot protection gear and tear gas guns.

The Labrang images, received from a source in the region, confirm a separate eyewitness account which reported a huge influx of troops into Labrang in early February on the eve of the annual Monlam Chenmo festival which traditionally draws large numbers of pilgrims to the monastery town. The source was not able to give an exact number for troops stationed in Labrang but reported that the number had not declined after the Monlam festival.

According to both sources, the local authorities in Labrang recently announced through local television and radio broadcasts, as well as in local newspapers, that the authorities would not be held responsible if anyone planning to protest in Labrang in the run up to Losar (the traditional Tibetan new year festival which begins on February 25 this year) were killed or arrested. The sources also reported that every morning since early February three groups of police have been searching each hotel and guest house in the town. Monks from Labrang monastery had been prevented from accessing the internet in local internet cafes since 2 February and that pilgrims arriving in Labrang had been turned away from the monastery by security officials(2).

The sources reported that the atmosphere in Labrang remained extremely tense after the Monlam festival. One source reported noticing extra security cameras positioned in the top ceiling corner of one internet café in the town.

Crisis point on eve of Tibetan new year

The images also lend credibility to recent widespread reports(3) of additional movements of thousands of troops into other key areas of Tibet as the Chinese authorities attempt to deter Tibetans from protesting around imminent flashpoints such as the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising (March 10 2009) and the start of the Losar festival today.

In a move that has infuriated the Chinese authorities, Tibetans have vowed not to celebrate Losar this year in a symbolic act of resistance to Chinese rule. They will instead mourn more than 200 Tibetans killed last year in China’s brutal crackdown following protests throughout Tibet. China’s response to such planned acts of mass resistance and to the possibility of further protest in Tibet has been either the threat, or actual use of, overwhelming force: a recent report in The Tibet Daily (4) vowed to ‘crush’ supporters of the Dalai Lama; in January official state media reported the launch of a “strike-hard” campaign in Lhasa in which almost 6000 Tibetans were questioned and more than 80 arrested; and last week Free Tibet reported mass beatings and the arrest of 24 Tibetans in Lithang county in eastern Tibet after hundreds of Tibetans joined a public protest demanding Tibetans should not observe Losar (5). Free Tibet has subsequently learned that, following the Lithang protests, a local television broadcast announced that anyone making or receiving either local or international calls would be subject to arrest.

Even before the recent highly provocative deployment of thousands of troops into Tibet, the Tibetan government in exile considered the situation in Tibet to be so critical that it issued an “appeal to the Parliaments, Governments and Individuals around the world to actively intervene so that unfortunate incidences of March 2008 may not be repeated again.”

Director of Free Tibet, Stephanie Brigden, said: “These pictures prove beyond doubt that China is assembling the apparatus for a lethal crackdown on a huge scale in Tibet. China is pointing a loaded gun at Tibet, but Gordon Brown and Hilary Clinton on her recent trip to Beijingcontinue to look the other way and refuse to break their public silence on China’s worsening clampdown in Tibet. World leaders must intervene at once to demand that China removes its armed troops from Tibetan towns immediately and opens up the whole region to the unfettered scrutiny of the international media so that the persistent reports of widespread abuses can be investigated.”

Ends

For further information:

Matt Whitticase, External Communications: t: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 (o) / +44 (0)7515 788456 (m) or email: matt@freetibet.org

Stephanie Brigden, Director: t: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 (o) / +44 (0)7530 528264

Notes to the Editor:

(1) Three photos from Labrang are attached to the foot of this press release:

Photo no 2: armed troops marching on Labrang street.

Photo no 6: armed troops perform drills in Labrang’s Rikta Thang Square.

Photo no 11: armed police with tear gas guns in Labrang.

Further images are available at: http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/photos-labrang-12-february-2009

(2) An image of an old Tibetan being turned away from Labrang monastery is available via the link above.

(3) There have been widespread reports of similarly large troop build-ups from other areas of Tibet in recent weeks. On 21 February the Tibetan government in exile reported large and overt troop deployments in Labrang as well as Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren, Qinghai province) and Lithang county in eastern Tibet (Chinese province: Sichuan). The report is available at: http://www.tibet.net/en/index.php?id=723&articletype=flash&rmenuid=morenews

The Times newspaper reported on 21 February the deployment of huge numbers of troops from Chengdu into eastern Tibet, stating that as many as 20,000 troops or two divisions may have been deployed, although it was unable to confirm the exact number of troops as the movement of troops is a closely guarded state secret in China. The Times’s report is available at:http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5775335.ece

(4) The Tibet Daily article was cited in a recent report by The Daily Telegraph which is available at:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/tibet/4696475/China-vows-to-crush-Dalai-Lama-supporters-in-Tibet.html

(5) Free Tibet’s report on the Lithang protest is available at: http://www.freetibet.org/newsmedia/170209

For further information:

Matt Whitticase, External Communications:
t: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 (o) / +44 (0)7515 788456 (m)
Or e-mail matt@freetibet.org

Stephanie Brigden, Director:
t: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 (o) / +44 (0)7530 528264 (m)Matt Whitticase: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 / +44 (0)7515 788456