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China Aims to Stifle Tibet's Photocopiers

May 23, 2010

May 20, 2010

BEIJING ? The authorities have identified a new threat to political
stability in the restive region of Tibet: photocopiers. Fearful that
Tibetans might mass-copy incendiary material, public security officials
intend to more tightly control printing and photocopying shops,
according to reports from the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

A regulation now in the works will require the operators of printing and
photocopying shops to obtain a new permit from the government, the Lhasa
Evening News reported this month. They will also be required to take
down identifying information about their clients and the specific
documents printed or copied, the newspaper said.

A public security official in Lhasa, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, said the regulation ?is being implemented right now,? but on
a preliminary basis. The official hung up the phone without providing
further details.

Tibetan activists said the new controls were part of a broader effort to
constrain Tibetan intellectuals after a March 2008 uprising that led to
scores of deaths. Since the riots, more than 30 Tibetan writers, artists
and other intellectuals have been detained for song lyrics, essays,
telephone conversations and e-mail messages deemed to pose a threat to
Chinese rule, according to a report issued this week by the
International Campaign for Tibet, a human rights group based in Washington.

?Basically, the main purpose is to instill fear into people?s hearts,?
said Woeser, an activist who, like many Tibetans, goes by one name. ?In
the past, the authorities tried to control ordinary people at the
grass-roots level. But they have gradually changed their target to
intellectuals in order to try to control thought.?

Ms. Woeser said she was also a target of the authorities for her views.
She lost her job in Lhasa after her book ?Notes on Tibet? was banned in
2003. She now lives in Beijing, but she said she was carefully watched
by the authorities.

China?s leaders contend that their only goal is to guarantee stability,
ethnic unity and better living standards for Tibetans. Officials say
that as long as separatist leaders are kept firmly in check, continued
economic development will win Tibetans over to Chinese rule.

But the International Campaign for Tibet?s report contends that the
authorities are not merely punishing separatists, but also dissidents of
all stripes who dare to criticize the government and defend Tibetans?
cultural and religious identity. A 47-year-old writer named Tragyal was
arrested in April after he published a book calling on Tibetans to
defend their rights through peaceful demonstrations, the report states.
His current whereabouts is unknown, it said.

A popular Tibetan singer, Tashi Dhondup, was sentenced to 15 months at a
labor camp in January after he released a new CD with a song calling for
the return of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, according to
the report. He had been arrested on suspicion of ?incitement to split
the nation,? the report states.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against the
Chinese authorities. He says he supports greater autonomy for Tibet but
not secession. China says the Dalai Lama?s goal is an independent Tibet.

The authorities in Tibet apparently see printing and photocopying shops
as potential channels through which unrest can spread. One Chinese print
shop operator in Lhasa, who is of the majority Han ethnicity rather than
Tibetan, said that her husband had been summoned to a meeting last week
on the new requirements.

?You know sometimes people print documents in the Tibetan language,
which we don?t understand,? said the woman, who gave her last name as
Wu. ?These might be illegal pamphlets.?

Tanzen Lhundup, a research fellow at the government-backed China
Tibetology Research Center, which typically follows the government line
on Tibet, said in an interview that ?the regulation itself is not
wrong.? But he said that it should have been put before the public
before it was put in place.

?They have never issued such a regulation before,? he said. ?On what
grounds do they want to issue it? I think citizens should be consulted

Zhang Jing contributed research.
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