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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Heavy security as Tibetans prepare for new year

February 25, 2009

Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:48pm EST

By Royston Chan

KANGDING, China (Reuters) - Tibetans are preparing to mark their new
year this week amid a heavy police presence and with Internet services
cut in at least one area a year after unrest which ended in deadly riots
in Lhasa and elsewhere.

Some Tibetan parts of Sichuan and neighboring Gansu province erupted
into violence after protests in Lhasa, regional capital of Tibet in
far-western China, in which the government says 19 people died, though
exiled groups say the number was much higher.

This year's anniversary is extra sensitive as 2009 also marks the 50th
anniversary of flight into exile of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai
Lama, after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

In Kangding, a town in southwestern Sichuan province historically part
of Tibet and heavily populated by Tibetans, soldiers have massed at a
base camp on the town's outskirts while police cars cruise the streets
ahead of the February 25 holiday.

"This is for the social stability of the area. I don't think there would
be any trouble here," said resident Tsira Dhapa.

But further west from Kangding, some trouble has already been reported.

Chinese forces in Lithang detained up to 24 Tibetans for taking to the
streets shouting support for the Dalai Lama, an overseas rights group
said earlier this month.


The protests were sparked by the arrest of a Tibetan who called for a
boycott of New Year celebrations, they said.

The idea of a boycott has met with a mixed reception, with some Tibetan
families quietly refraining from celebrations and others marking the
February 25 holiday as usual.

"I don't know much about the situation. But today the living standards
are much better than before, so I don't think people would do such
things," said 22-year-old Tibetan resident Tseren Quchuo, refering to
the potential for more unrest. "I think everyone should have hopes for a
better future."

Still, authorities are preparing for the worst.

In Yajiang, a Tibetan town on the way to Lithang, police in helmets
carrying batons keep watch and man roadblocks.

In a further sign of government wariness, Internet services throughout
the area have been cut and people are unable to send or receive mobile
telephone text messages, residents say.

In Kangding, known as Dardo in Tibetan, the ripple effect from last
year's troubles has also hammered tourism, which normally provides much
needed income in this poor and remote part of the country.

"It has affected us greatly. A lot of tourists heard that there were
riots in these areas so they were not willing to come here for there
travels," said 25-year-old shopkeeper Liu Jie. "So our local economy has

(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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