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New security measures introduced as crackdown in Tibet deepens PDF Print E-mail
[11 April 2013] Tibetans are being subjected to increased surveillance and restrictions as the Chinese government continues to intensify its crackdown in Tibet in an effort to quash protests and activities which challenge China's rule and stem the flow of information to the outside world.

"Surveillance is now a pervasive part of life across the [Tibet] region"
(Human Rights Watch, 20 March 2013)

Restrictions in Rebkong  I  Surveillance in TAR  I  Mobile phone screening in Lhasa

New "unlawful activities" announced in Rebkong
The Chinese authorities in Rebkong county, eastern Tibet, which has been the scene of numerous protests and self-immolations in recent months, have issued a new list of 13 "unlawful activities". The document, a copy of which was received by Radio Free Asia at the end of March, has been circulated to all towns and villages in Rebkong county (Chinese: Tongren), Malho (Ch: Huangnan) Prefecture, Amdo (now part of China's Qinghai province).

The document states the new restrictions are aimed at strengthening the protection of social stability and maintaining discipline by cracking down on unlawful activities in the relevant areas. The "unlawful activities" include:
  • filming self-immolation protests
  • fundraising in the name of social welfare
  • urging protection of the environment
  • urging protection of the Tibetan language
  • conducting prayer rituals or other religious ceremonies which have overtones of support for Tibetan independence
  • intimidating government officials
  • inciting self-immolation protests
  • obstructing the rescue of self-immolators by Chinese security forces
  • taking pictures and filming the actual scene of self-immolation and mass gatherings
  • sending images or information about self-immolations to outside separatist forces
  • providing secret information to separatist forces
The list of new restrictions enforces previous actions taken by the Chinese authorities in Qinghai province. In November 2012, officials in Malho announced cash rewards for those exposing crimes related to self-immolations and issued public notices announcing collective punishments for those associated with self-immolations. Families, villages and monasteries were all threatened with financial penalties, if found to be associated with self-immolators.

Lobsang KunchokAuthorities in other regions of Tibet have instigated similar restrictions, and in December 2012 China's Supreme Court announced the introduction of a new criminal charge - "intentional homicide" - for those "who plan, incite, aide, abet... and help those perpetrating self-immolations". On 31 January, Lobsang Kunchok (pictured right), a monk from Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Sichuan province, became the first Tibetan to receive a death sentence (suspended for two years) on the new charge.

Further reading: RFA

New surveillance methods introduced in TAR
A new security system, which monitors the movement of individuals, is being introduced across the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as the Chinese government seeks to increase surveillance on Tibetans.

Human Rights Watch logoAccording to Human Rights Watch, the Chinese government announced the introduction of a 'grid management system' in its annual TAR work report on 7 February. Officially portrayed to 'improve public access to basic services', the system significantly increases the government's surveillance and monitoring capacity of special groups in Tibet, such as former political prisoners and those who have returned from exile.

Following pilot studies in Lhasa in 2012, the system's true purpose was disclosed on 17 February 2013 by Yu Zhengsheng, a Standing Committee member of China's Politburo, who said that the system should be put into effect throughout the region in order to form nets in the sky and traps on the ground.

The grid management system, described as "Orwellain" by Human Rights Watch, is the latest in a series of surveillance measures introduced by the Chinese government to "maintain social stability".

Chinese official visiting police post in LhasaBy July 2012, the authorities had constructed 676 permanent street-side "convenience police-posts" (Ch: bian minjing wu zhan) in cities and towns across Tibet. (One such post is pictured right, during an official visit by Tibet Party Secretary Chen Quanguo in 2012.) These police-posts, manned 24 hours every day by police officers, contain high-tech equipment to check individuals passing by on a case-by-case basis.

Local authorities have also been promoting volunteer security groups known as Red Armband Patrols. Initially organised to deal with traffic and street management during times of unrest and tension, the patrols have also been used in Tibet to carry out raids on homes in searches for separatist materials and images of the Dalai Lama.

In its report, Human Rights Watch stated that, Surveillance is now a pervasive part of life across the [Tibet] region." It added, "Chinas effort to impose pervasive surveillance on every street is not likely to make Tibet safer, but the increased surveillance will surely increase pressure in an already tense region, even while the Tibetan people are still waiting for Chinese attention to rampant violations of their rights.

Further reading: HRW report

Crackdown on mobile phones in Lhasa
The Chinese authorities in Lhasa have instigated a new campaign to try and stem the flow of information from Tibet. Special teams are searching personal mobile phones, particularly those belonging to monks, for 'sensitive' information and contacts outside Tibet.

The launch of the campaign began on 8 March, just two days before the anniversarty of the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising. According to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) special government work teams arrived at Drepung monastery in Lhasa and began screening mobile phones owned by the monks. Further inspections were expected to be carried out at Sera and Ganden monasteries, Ramoche and Jokhang temples and other monastic institutions in the region in subsequent weeks and months.

Ngawang TobdenThis campaign is part of a wider crackdown on communications. Tibetans caught with 'sensitive' images or information on their mobile phones, such as pictures of the Dalai Lama or details about protests, risk severe punishment. In February, 20 year-old student Ngawang Tobden (pictured right) was sentenced to two years "re-education through labour" after being arrested in Lhasa in October 2012 for having images of the Tibetan national flag and self-immolators on his phone.

Further reading: TCHRD I RFA

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