China Tightens Security Presence in Kardze Ahead of Tibetan New Year

Security forces have been deployed in large numbers to a Tibetan county in western China’s Sichuan province, apparently in preparation for possible political unrest around the Tibetan New Year next month, sources say.

The stationing of paramilitary police in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county in Sichuan’s Kardze prefecture follows a similar deployment in the prefecture’s Draggo (Luhuo) county two weeks ago on the second anniversary of a deadly crackdown by police on protesters, according to sources in the region.

“On Jan. 30, Chinese New Year, China sent a large number of paramilitary troops to Kardze county, and most of the county offices are now guarded by these forces,” a local resident told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

Most of the newly arrived security troops are encamped at a military base outside the county seat, Kardze town, with others stationed at the county’s grain trading office, the source said.

“On the morning of the New Year, additional troops and armored vehicles patrolled the streets of Kardze in a show of military strength to threaten the Tibetans,” the source said.

“All roads leading to the sites of protests in 2008 and 2009 were put under watch, and troops are patrolling those sites around the clock,” he added.

Though Chinese authorities had tried to pressure Kardze residents to publicly celebrate the Chinese New Year, local Tibetans ignored the holiday, he said.

“They are also not sure whether they will celebrate Losar [the Tibetan New Year] next month, because they feel this would be disrespectful to Tibetans who have lost their lives" in protests against Chinese rule, he added.

Meanwhile, large numbers of Chinese paramilitary police were sent two weeks ago to Kardze prefecture’s Draggo county, where police on Jan. 23, 2012 fired on Tibetan protesters calling for Tibetan freedom, killing two and injuring at least 30.

“The Chinese forces are carrying out military drills on the main road both day and night in an effort to intimidate the local Tibetans,” one source told RFA, adding that police were “randomly” checking the IDs of Tibetans in the street.

“Two or three Tibetans sitting in restaurants or seen conversing in the streets are immediately dispersed by the police,” he said.

“So Tibetans are now living in a very restricted environment.”

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the area in 2008.

A total of 125 Tibetans have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom since February 2009, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.

Reported by Norbu Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Rigdhen Dolma. Written in English by Richard Finney.