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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Chinese police carry out checks on 6,000 in Tibet

January 29, 2009

Jane Macartney in Beijing

January 28, 2009

Police have carried out checks on nearly 6,000 people in the Tibetan
capital, Lhasa, in their latest Strike Hard campaign, arresting two who
were found to have downloaded reactionary songs ? probably praising the
Dalai Lama ? onto their mobile phones.

China has from time to time launched ?Strike Hard? campaigns across the
country, rounding up thousands, jailing many and accelerating the number
of executions to serve as a deterrent against increases in crime.

The latest drive in the capital of the Himalayan region of Tibet appears
intended to intimidate the local population before the 50th anniversary
on March 10 of the flight of the Dalai Lama into exile and to prevent a
repeat of the riot on March 14 last year when 18 people were killed as
Tibetans rampaged through the city, burning and looting.

The Lhasa Evening News reported that the latest checks began on January
18 when the entire investigative police began a citywide sweep. By dawn
on January 21 they had mobilised 600 people with 160 vehicles and
checked seven large city blocks, 2,922 rented accommodations, 14 hotels
and guest-houses, 18 bars and three Internet cafes. They had checked
5,766 people.

The police focus was on places where the floating population gathered,
particularly rented accommodation and ?places of filth and iniquity?,
the newspaper said. IN total, they detained 66 people suspected of
theft, burglary, prostitution.

On the first day, the police detained two people ?who had reactionary
opinions and reactionary songs on their cell phones?, the newspaper
said. It did not specify what constituted a ?reactionary? opinion, but
the word is generally used to denote an idea that fails to conform with
state-approved communist ideology. In this case it is possible that the
pair had voiced support for the exiled Dalai Lama and had songs that to
the Buddhist monk.

Pictures of the Dalai Lama are banned, officials often vilify him in
speeches, state media routinely issue attacks against the ?Dalai Lama
clique? and campaigns are carried out frequently in Tibet requiring
people to denounce him.

Last month, authorities in Lhasa detained several people who had
downloaded such songs from the Internet and sold them on compact discs
and in MP3 format in markets. It was not the first time that music has
infuriated officials in Lhasa; Tibetan music blares out from shops
across the old city, which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Tibetans, and
people flock to music halls to hear their favourite folk singers.

A couple of years ago a song in praise of the Dalai Lama?s younger
sister, Gzunpelma, became a huge hit in Lhasa with pirated CDs on sale
across the city. At first the tune, with lyrics such as ?You are our
mother, you build our future?, escaped the notice of the authorities and
the tune could be heard on every street corner and in every home. When
the authorities became aware of the words, the song was banned and one
person was arrested for selling the CD.

Many songs in Tibet praise the Dalai Lama, even though his picture is
banned in the region and he has been the target of a fierce vilification
campaign. Often he is referred to in song as the ?great treasure? ? a
reference that all Tibetans understand

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