BY N24 Correspondent, KATHMANDU:- Chinese authorities in Tibet have recently intensified their crackdown on the spread of politically sensitive information, monitoring online news-sharing and stopping Tibetans in the streets to check mobile phones for forbidden content, Tibetan sources say.
The move expands tightened restrictions put in place around the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against rule by China, which marched into the formerly independent Himalayan country nine years before, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“The crackdown on individuals’ phones by the Chinese authorities has intensified recently,” said Golog Jigme, a former Tibetan political prisoner now living in Switzerland.
“Anyone found with pictures of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama or with documents related to events on March 10 or Tibetan issues generally is detained and punished,” Jigme added, citing information obtained from contacts inside Tibet.
“My sources in Tibet do not feel free to share more detailed news though, or to identify anyone arrested by the Chinese or whose whereabouts are unknown,” Jigme said.
Telecommunications offices set up in Tibetan villages now check on all conversations made over the phone, and police use the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as their excuse for stopping individuals for closer searches, Jigme said, adding, “That’s how Tibetans are scrutinized.”
Chinese authorities in Tibet routinely maintain tight control over information flows in the region, arresting Tibetans for sharing news and opinions on social media and for contacting relatives living in exile, sometimes with news of anti-China protests, according to rights groups and other experts.
Restrictions in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa have meanwhile remained in place after the politically sensitive March 10 anniversary, a London-based Tibetan rights group says, with large numbers of Chinese police deployed around the Jokhang Temple and groups of more than three Tibetans barred from visiting the important pilgrimage site.
“The Chinese government increased its oppressive security measures to avoid people marking their historical resistance to Chinese occupation. Now it appears to be making these restrictions permanent,” said John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet, in a March 22 statement.
“This constant escalation of constraints on the Tibetan way of life must result in foreign governments taking real action against the Chinese government,” Jones said.
Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
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