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China sends more Troops into Tibet as Clinton Arrives for Talks

February 22, 2009

Jane Macartney in Beijing
The Times [London]
February 21, 2009

China has deployed thousands of extra troops and paramilitary forces
across Tibetan regions to head off unrest after several recent protests
against government by Beijing.

The Communist Party is increasingly nervous that anger against Chinese
rule — that has simmered among Tibetans since widespread demonstrations
in March and April last year — could erupt into renewed violence,
particularly over the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, on February 25.

The build-up of security in Tibetan areas comes as Hillary Clinton, the
new US Secretary of State, arrives in Beijing for a weekend of talks
with Chinese leaders. The show of force is likely to complicate talks,
which are expected to focus not only the global financial crisis and
climate change but also on human rights and the situation in Tibet.

Columns of army vehicles have been seen clogging narrow mountain roads
into Tibetan-populated regions of southwestern Sichuan province in the
past few days. Soldiers have been sent out from the Chengdu Military
Region — one of seven military commands in China – along with members of
the paramilitary People's Armed Police. Their numbers could amount to as
much as two divisions, or as many as 20,000 men, but such numbers could
not be confirmed in a country in which all military movements are a
state secret.

The troops have even been permitted to carry loaded weapons, a rare and
extreme measure for soldiers operating within China's national borders,
local sources said.

In Hongyuan, sources described the troops arriving in large convoys
stretching into dozens, sometimes hundreds, of vehicles. One resident
said: "The town will be pretty much closed from February 22 because on
February 25 the PLA will hold a military exercise here."

That exercise, in a region that was particularly volatile last year,
falls on the day of the Tibetan New Year – a celebration that many
Tibetans say they will boycott out of mourning for those killed or
jailed after last year's unrest, in a move has enraged the Chinese

Hundreds of angry Tibetans rampaged through the streets of Lhasa on
March 14 last year, burning offices and shops and killing at least 18
people as they vented their rage against Chinese rule and called for the
return of the exiled Dalai Lama.

In several other towns, residents described seeing an increase in troops
movements in the past few days. In Aba and Ganze, two other of the most
restive regions last year, residents said that army patrols were now
taking place around the clock. In Langmusi, on the border between
Sichuan and Gansu provinces, squads of paramilitary have filled hotels
in the town surrounded by ancient Buddhist temples.

In Litang, where the arrest of a lone monk demonstrator led to a protest
this week, people said they had seen about 100 military vehicles on the
streets. Local sources said two that Chinese traffic police and one
paramilitary had been stabbed to death in the night and police were
warning each other not to wear their uniforms after dark.

In Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, pamilitary patrols has been increase from
squads of five men to thirteen, moving through the streets both day and
night. At night even armoured personnel carriers were to be seen on the
streets, residents said, along with numerous military and police
vehicles — all driving without their sirens.

Troops have also been deployed around most big monasteries in Tibetan
regions and all police in Tibetan areas of Sichuan have been ordered to
report for duty until further notice. A platoon of 100 soldiers has been
deployed on the Gangtuo bridge the crosses a river on the provincial
border between Sichuan and Tibet after reports of an attempt to set off
explosives there in the past few days, sources said.

The growing antipathy between ethnic Tibetans and ethnic Han Chinese
burst into violence this morning in the town of Nagchu, north of Lhasa.
The trouble started with a fight between a Tibetan lorry driver and an
ethnic Han Chinese taxi driver and swiftly grew into a street brawl
involving hundreds of Tibetans. They shouted slogans demanding the
return of the Dalai Lama and set fire to police cars, prompting security
forces to open fire. Three people were reported to have been wounded and
some 17 detained.

The security clampdown is likely to increase with the approach of the
first anniversary of the March 14 riot in Lhasa and the 50th anniversary
of the flight into exile of the Dalai Lama after an abortive
anti-Chinese uprising that began on March 10, 1959.
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