- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Authorities closed the last window into a restive Tibetan region in western China on Monday, tightening its security cordon on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

Beijing is trying to head off trouble Tuesday, which marks the anniversary of the start of the 1959 abortive Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule. A peaceful commemoration last year by monks in Lhasa, Tibet’s regional capital, erupted into anti-Chinese rioting four days later and spread to surrounding provinces - the most sustained and violent demonstrations by Tibetans in decades.

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This year, chains of police checkpoints confront travelers to ethnically Tibetan areas - a quarter of Chinese territory that stretches from Tibet to parts of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Convoys of armored vehicles and sandbagged sentry posts have turned the remote mountainous region into something of an armed camp. Police patrols have increased outside Buddhist monasteries.

Early Monday, small bombs ripped the emergency lights and roofs off a police car and fire engine at a timber farm in a Tibetan area in Qinghai province, Xinhua news agency reported. No deaths were reported. A local official, surnamed Qi, confirmed the explosion.

It was not clear if the blasts were connected with tensions over the tight security, but they were made by “unsophisticated homemade explosives” and came hours after a clash between locals and police who were inspecting vehicles at the Makahe timber farm, Xinhua said.

Recent visitors to Lhasa have described armed police posted on rooftops. Local governments in Tibetan areas have ordered foreign tourists out, and foreign journalists have been detained and told to leave. Internet and text-messaging services, which helped spread word of last year’s protests, have been unplugged in parts of the region.

The Dalai Lama scheduled a speech Tuesday marking the 50th anniversary in the Indian hill town of Dharmsala where he is based.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said Tibet was basically stable and urged Tibetan politicians in Beijing to develop the region economically to tamp down on separatism.

“We should build a solid great wall to oppose the separatists, uphold the unity of the motherland and advance Tibet from basic stability to lasting stability,” Mr. Hu said on state-run television.

In Beijing, a top police official said border controls in Tibet were tightened to prevent disruptions by supporters of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who is often demonized by Chinese leaders.

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