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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."

Tibet 'a giant prison'

March 11, 2009

China clamps down for revolt anniversary
By Audra Ang
The Associated Press
March 10, 2009

KANGDING, China -- Authorities closed the last window into a restive Tibetan region in western China yesterday, tightening its security cordon on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile.

A Dalai Lama envoy called Tibet "a giant prison."

Beijing is trying to head off trouble around March 10, which marks the start of the 1959 abortive Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule.

A peaceful commemoration last year by monks in Lhasa, Tibet's regional capital, erupted into anti-Chinese rioting four days later and spread to surrounding provinces -- the most sustained and violent demonstrations by Tibetans in decades.

This year, chains of police checkpoints confront travellers to ethnically Tibetan areas -- a quarter of Chinese territory that stretches from Tibet to parts of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Convoys of armoured vehicles and sandbagged sentry posts have turned the remote mountainous region into something of an armed camp.

Recent visitors to Lhasa have described armed police posted on rooftops. Local governments in Tibetan areas have ordered foreign tourists out, and foreign journalists have been detained and told to leave. Internet and text-messaging services, which helped spread word of last year's protests, have been unplugged in parts of the region.

"There won't be large-scale protests because the security situation in areas of Tibetan populations is very tight," said Dibyesh Anand, a Tibet expert at London's Westminster University. "Let's say there is a protest in a small town somewhere. How would we know? ... Even if there is a clampdown we will not find out."

'VERY DISTRESSING'

The Dalai Lama scheduled a speech today marking the 50th anniversary in the Indian hill town of Dharmsala where he is based.

His envoy, Kelsan Gyaltsen, said the situation in Tibet was "very, very distressing."

"At the moment, unfortunately, the Tibetan people inside Tibet are experiencing the harshest wave of repression since the days of the Cultural Revolution," he told reporters in Stockholm. "Tibet has become a giant prison, and at the moment nobody knows what is going on inside that prison."

Gyaltsen also appealed for help.

"We would like to appeal to members of the international community to persuade the Chinese government to immediately open up Tibet, to allow international observers into Tibet."
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