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Intensified security in Lhasa coincides with eighth round of talks

November 15, 2008

International Campaign for Tibet
ICT Report
November 13, 2008

Chinese officials have admitted to stepping up security in Lhasa
linked to "the Dalai Lama's separatist activities" and coinciding
with the eighth round of dialogue between Chinese officials and the
Dalai Lama's representatives in Beijing (October 31 - November 5).
Hardline comments made on Monday by Zhu Weiqun, the Executive Vice
Minister of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese
Communist Party, who met the Dalai Lama's envoys, followed the
announcement by China's state-run media last week of a propaganda
drive on Tibet, and indicate the Party's concern over support from
the international community on the Tibet issue.

Vice governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region Pema Tsewang (Chinese
transliteration: Bai Ma Cai Wang) told two Australian journalists
accompanying an official visit to Lhasa last week that local
authorities had boosted the security presence in Lhasa above and
beyond the crackdown that followed the wave of protests from March 10
onwards. He said that this was due to fears by the government of a
repeat of the March protests, and he reiterated the official line
that the protests were the work of the Dalai Lama and his supporters:
"After the March 14 riots, the Dalai Lama and his followers have
speeded up their separatist activities." (The Australian, November 8).

The Chinese state media last week announced a major propaganda
campaign "to help international readers to better understand Tibet."
(China Tibet Information Center, November 3, The
report stated that nine state-run media outlets, including Xinhua and
the People's Daily Online, would take part in the drive. Beijing has
sought to impose a news blackout in Tibet to prevent information
about the security crackdown reaching the outside world and, with few
exceptions, the international media have been blocked from visiting
Tibet since before the Beijing Summer Olympics. The launch of a
propaganda campaign aimed at an international audience indicates
official concern about reporting by the global media and criticism
expressed by governments since the crackdown began.

Zhu Weiqun, who participated in the dialogue with the Dalai Lama's
envoys, will soon tour European capitals to deliver China's account
of the dialogue's proceedings, which have so far included denouncing
the Dalai Lama's Middle Way approach and a memorandum on genuine
autonomy for Tibetans delivered by his envoys as "disguised
independence." (

Zhu Weiqun represents the United Front Work Department in the Party,
which operates in conjunction with other core Party organizations,
such as the Propaganda and the International Liaison Departments. The
UFWD's role is to assert and enforce the Party line, rather than
discuss or negotiate official policy. At the local level in Tibet,
UFWD officials are responsible for instilling the Party's hard-line
policies among government and Party offices in Tibet's prefectures
and counties, and UFWD officials are often regarded as some of the
most politically indoctrinated and "anti-splittist" cadres in Tibet.

Crackdown intensifies in Lhasa as rare media visit allowed

Two Australian journalists accompanied an Australian parliamentarian
on a four-day visit to Tibet (November 2-6, at the invitation of the
Chinese government. During his visit, Liberal MP Michael Johnson,
Vice-Chairman of the Australia-China Parliamentary Friendship Group,
called on Chinese leaders to consider allowing the Dalai Lama to
return to his homeland, saying: "As a friend of China, I would say
that some kind of reconciliation must take place between Beijing and
the Dalai Lama." (Report by Steve Lewis, The Courier-Mail, Australia,
November 2008).One of the reporters, Cameron Stewart, wrote about the
intensified military presence in Lhasa:

"As night falls, hundreds of Chinese troops fan out across this
rebellious city, armed with riot shields and assault rifles. They set
up sentry posts on street corners and dispatch patrols in groups of
six soldiers, three with shields and three with guns. These patrols
spend the night walking down the lanes of Lhasa's Tibetan quarter,
looking for any sign of dissent...When the sun rises, the soldiers do
not melt away, but are replaced by a new rotation of troops. The
military stranglehold on Lhasa by day is maintained with one chilling
addition -- snipers are installed on rooftops around the city's most
holy site, the Jokhang Temple, ready to train their guns on the
hundreds of Tibetan pilgrims praying in Barkhor Square below. The
heavy military presence betrays China's unspoken fear that it is
losing, rather than winning, the hearts and minds of local Tibetans,
who accuse Beijing of subjugating their culture and religion to
preserve national unity."

The two journalists told ICT that they witnessed a group of monks
being bundled into a police van close to the Jokhang Temple, one of
the holiest religious sites in Tibet. They were unable to establish
the reason for the monks' detention.

A statement given to the journalists by the TAR Vice Governor appears
to confirm other reports that during the time of the Dalai Lama's
envoys' visit to China, security was stepped up and the atmosphere in
Lhasa was even more tense than usual. It could not be confirmed that
this was linked to the authorities' concern about possible reactions
to lack of progress in the talks and continued hostility to the Dalai Lama.

A Tibetan source told ICT on November 4: "Today, the situation is
tense and the police are arresting monks and any Tibetans who do not
have officially issued identification. The police are closing all
hotels and inns that let Tibetans stay who do not have ID. People are
saying that the negotiation is the breaking point. The military set
up new checkpoints and wear new uniforms."

Chinese officials admitted to the Australians that 55 Tibetans have
received prison sentences on various charges related to a March 14
demonstration in Lhasa that spiraled into violence. The prison
sentences handed down ranged from three years to life, Xinhua
reported on November 4, based on comments made by Pema Tsewang, TAR
Vice Chair. Xinhua did not give details of how the sentences were
handed down or what sort of trial the prisoners had received, if any.
It is not clear whether this total includes the 30 people, including
six monks, convicted in April in Lhasa and sentenced to periods
ranging from three years to life. (ICT report, For a full account of
the protests and riots in Lhasa and beyond, see ICT report, Tibet at
a Turning Point

This report can be found online at

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
Tel: +44 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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