Ahead of Tuesday’s politically sensitive fiftieth anniversary of the failed anti-China Tibetan uprising, Chinese President Hu Jintao urged officials to reinforce a Great Wall of stability in the remote Himalayan region that also borders India and Nepal.
“We must reinforce the solid Great Wall for combating separatism and safeguarding national unity, so as to promote long-term stability in the region,’’ Hu was quoted saying in official media reports of his discussion with Tibetan deputies of China’s legislature on Monday.
The 1959 uprising had led the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to escape to exile in India. This month also marks one year since China cracked down on the strongest protests against its rule since 1989, after riots swept parts of Tibet and its capital Lhasa last year. Reports from Tibet indicated the region had turned into a fortress guarded by armed police and soldiers this week.
“We have made due deployment and tightened controls at border ports, key areas and passages along the border in Tibet,” Fu Hongyu, the Political Commissar of the Ministry of Public Security Border Control told the government-run media Xinhua on Monday.
“We will firmly crackdown on criminal activities in Tibet’s border area that pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and government,” Fu was quoted saying on the sidelines of the annual session of China’s legislature. “We will go all out to maintain the security and stability of border and coastal areas.’’
Beijing blames the riots on Tibetans led by the Dalai Lama and labels the 73-year-old leader a ‘splittist’ out to sabotage Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama denies instigating violence and says he seeks autonomy with meaningful religious, cultural freedom for his homeland.
On the record, officials rule out the possibility of major unrests in Lhasa this week. But they are not sparing efforts to stamp out demonstrations in a year packed with politically sensitive anniversaries, mass unemployment and a failing economy.
On Monday, official media reported that a police vehicle and fire engine was targeted with minor explosives in a clash between forest police and residents at a checkpoint in the northwest Tibetan region of Qinghai. Last week in the western Sichuan province, a Buddhist monk holding a picture of the Dalai Lama tried to immolate himself.
An International Campaign for Tibet report quoted in Reuters claimed that over 1,200 Tibetans are missing since last March. “There is still an intense climate of fear in Lhasa on Monday,” Kate Saunders, an author of the report, told Reuters.