China has revealed it is using a massive surveillance camera network to cover restive areas of Tibet and bring to an end a grisly wave of self-immolations.
Officials at the 18th party Congress claimed yesterday that the ‘Skynet’ network has divided the region into a closely monitored grid and that teams of security personnel can be mobilised within two minutes to put an end to the suicide attempts.
Six Tibetans have doused themselves with petrol and set themselves alight since the eve of China’s once-in-a-decade leadership change on Wednesday bringing to 69 the number who are reported to have died in the past year.
Yesterday (FRI), thousands of students marched in protest in Rebkhong county, Qinghai province, according to Free Tibet, an activist group, and armed police stepped up their presence.
Speaking at the Congress in Beijing Losang Gyaltsen, the vice chairman of the local government in Tibet, said: “We do not want to see such incidents,” he said. “We do not want anyone to spoil Tibet as a happy region. For locals, we are checking IDs and for visitors we have checkpoints and security checks on travel.
“We also have a grid management system, so if any immolation happens in a certain block, we can launch an emergency rescue within two minutes,” he added.
Skynet is a highly secretive network and it is not known how many people work for it or how far is its reach. It has hardly been mentioned in official state media communications and is supposed to have a camera on every road in Tibet and in the Tibetan areas of Gansu and Sichuan.
Beijing has been steadily expanding its use and in June, in a rare mention, it was praised as a way of combating crime in the region.
Lately there has also been a heavy security presence in Tibet’s temples. “There has been no immolation in the past year at any of the 1,700 temples and among the 46,000 monks in Tibet,” said Mr Gyaltsen.
He blamed the self-immolations on activists and “some monks outside the country”.
“Some overseas Tibetans are trying to achieve their ugly targets at the cost of others’ lives. It is immoral,” he said. So far, the Dalai Lama has yet to instruct his followers not to self-immolate.
Despite the tensions between Tibetans and Han Chinese, the party secretary of Lhasa, Che Dalha, said the city had been voted one of China’s happiest cities for five years in a row.
“For four of those years, it was number one,” he said. “It needs to be felt and experienced, so only the Tibetans can tell how happy they are. Lhasa has the bluest sky, the whitest clouds, cleanest water and air and happiest people,” he added.
Elsewhere at the Congress, corruption continued to preoccupy Communist party officials.
Wang Jingqing, the vice minister of China’s powerful and mysterious Organisation Department, which is responsible for internal HR, vowed senior leaders would battle corruption to preserve the “pure nature of the Chinese Communist Party”.
“Detachment from the people is the biggest danger to the Party’s governance,” he said, claiming that 668,000 party members had been punished for corruption in the last five years.
Without “strict party discipline” the Communist Party would “only be a pool of loose sand and will not achieve anything,” Mr Wang added.
But asked if he would support a policy under which leaders would have to publish their assets, he simply ignored the question.
Wang Ying, the head of the prosperous southern province of Guangdong, and a man who is often described as one of the Party’s reformers, also demurred over whether officials should make their wealth public.
Before the Congress opened, the New York Times revealed that the family of Wen Jiabao, the outgoing premier, had at least £1.67 billion of assets. The family of Xi Jinping, the incoming president, is worth some £235 million, according to a Bloomberg investigation.
“The Party central has clearly specified rules on the property ownership of government officials,” he said. “Guangdong has been exploring ways of publishing assets and will keep exploring in this direction. We will gradually do this according to policy from Beijing,”
DHARAMSHALA, November 9: Thousands of Tibetan school students in the Rebkong region of eastern Tibet are carrying out a major street protest at the time of filing this report.
Sources have told Phayul that 5000 to 6000 students began protesting in the streets of Rongwo town since 5 am (local time), raising slogans for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return and rights of the Tibetan people.
“The students have been protesting in front of the major Chinese government offices and have jam-packed entire streets in the region,” Dorjee Wangchuk, an exiled Tibetan with contacts in the region said.
“The students have been reciting the ancient Tibetan prayer hymn for His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Ghang-ri Ra-wei Kor-wei) and raised slogans calling for freedom in Tibet, the rights of the Tibetan people, and the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.”
As per reports, students from all the schools in the four districts in the region – Thunring, Chentsa, Tsekhog, and Yulgan – in addition to students in Rebkong, have joined the protests.
“Armed forces have been deployed outside the major Chinese government offices where the students are demonstrating,” the same source said. “Although Chinese security forces have restrained from breaking up the students protests, the situation is getting more and more tense.”
Phayul is also getting reports of local Tibetans beginning to assemble in large numbers at the Dolma Square in front of the Rongwo Monastery. Monks of the Monastery have been carrying out prayers there since morning.
Dear My Tibetan Friend,
The way to freedom is hard, bitter and full of pitfalls, but together we will speak up all our sufferings to the whole world.
Our heart is broken, plagued by a thousand of indelible wounds and humiliations.
But we will never surrender, we will continue to fight on behalf of our children and future generations.
We won’t never give up hope, until our last breathe we will bring our message to the hearts of mankind!
You are not alone, Tibet and Vietnam are still fiery alive, we won’t die, we will rise again from the shadows of darkness. History is ours, and together we will make history, we need to change the destiny and save our people.
Together we can change the world, we can bring the light that will shine on this abyss of terror, brutality and corruption. We need to heal these innocent souls, ripped and lacerated by cruelty and violence, it’s our duty, our mission…
The human beings are going towards the path of evil and insensibility. Whatever happened to these frozen hearts?
A generation lost in pace… wasn’t life supposed to be more than this?
We must be aware that only Free Vietnamese Heroes will be able to lead Tibet to its salvation from China’s yoke and prevent the extinction of Tibetan People.
But Vietnamese people and the whole World really need Tibetan people and their culture, their precious philosophy and teachings of life… you can really save the World, save all of us from our self-destruction.
Keep your faith. We really trust in you and we have an immense respect and a deep and fervid love for all your people.
I promise, we will be the voice of all those forgotten souls, forced to sacrifice themselves burning their bodies and self-immolating for the love of Tibet Land and for the destiny of their people.
Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Hạnh
Tibetan marchers call for freedom as Beijing continues congress
Hundreds of Tibetans demonstrated in a western China town today, calling for freedom from Chinese rule.
The latest act of protest was apparently timed to send a signal to the Communist Party elite as it gathers in Beijing to appoint a new leadership.
The protesters, mostly secondary school students, marched through the town of Rongwo, shouting for independence and for the return from exile of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
“It was chaos this morning,” said a Tibetan painter who lives nearby.
The march comes after five Tibetans set themselves on fire this week, two of them in the area near Rongwo, in burning protests that have triggered gatherings of hundreds of people over the past few days, rights groups report.
Tibet support groups overseas have said the rise in protests in recent days is meant to highlight Tibetan unhappiness with Chinese rule as the country’s leaders begin to hand over power to younger successors at a party congress in Beijing.
“Chinese leaders selected during the 18th Party Congress must recognise that China’s hard-line policies in Tibet have utterly failed and only through dialogue can a peaceful and lasting solution be found,” said Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the Tibetan self-declared government-in-exile in Dharmsala, India, in a statement.
In Beijing, Tibetan Communist Party officials attending the party congress told reporters they believed much of the blame for the spate of self-immolations fell on the Dalai Lama and his associates, whom they said were instigating the protests.
Meanwhile in Beijing, asset disclosure for Chinese officials is likely to be slowly phased in over time, a senior Communist Party leader said as the government grapples with the fraught task of rooting out corruption.
The comments from Wang Yang, a member of the decision-making Politburo with a reputation as a reformer, came a day after the party opened the week-long congress to install a new leadership with a call to fight corruption.
Mr Wang told reporters that the province he runs, Guangdong, is exploring methods for officials to declare their wealth and that in the future public disclosure of assets will be required of all officials.
“I believe Chinese officials, in accordance with central rules, will gradually make public their assets,” Mr Wang said after a meeting with congress delegates from Guangdong. He did not give a time frame.
His comments highlight the hand-wringing at many levels of the party over its inability to clamp down on the corruption by officials and their family members that has deepened public disgust and fed many of the tens of thousands of protests that hit China yearly.
At the congress’s opening yesterday, President Hu Jintao warned that unrestrained graft threatened to topple the party’s continued rule. He called on the party’s 82 million members to be ethical and to stop their family members from trading on their connections to amass fortunes.
The congress itself had no public agenda on today.
Delegations met separately to discuss the lengthy report Mr Hu delivered. But in fact, most of the delegates have little say over the main agenda.
The selection of younger leaders to replace Mr Hu and his colleagues is done behind the scenes by the departing leadership, retired party elders and other power brokers.
Mr Wang’s views matter. An ally of Mr Hu’s from their days 30 years ago in the Communist Youth League, he has gone on to forge credentials as a reformer. In Guangdong, he has tried to guide the economy away from labour-intensive assembly-line processing and enacted more tolerant rules for environmental and other local activist groups that the party has mostly tried to suppress.
Mr Wang has been considered a candidate for the new leadership, the Politburo Standing Committee, though party-connected scholars say his policies and popularity have brought a backlash from conservatives, diminishing his chances.
“All party members are reformers,” Mr Wang said, brushing off a question about his prospects. “The report clearly states the goal of the party congress is to liberate thoughts, reform and open up, rally efforts and overcome obstacles. This will not change.”
On corruption, however, the party has been in need of new thinking. The party, which controls courts, police and prosecutors, has proved feeble in policing itself yet does not want to undermine its control by empowering an independent body to do so.
The idea of public asset disclosure has been batted about for years, if more loudly in recent months following a string of scandals.
A Politburo member, Bo Xilai, was cashiered after his wife murdered a British businessman, and he is accused of corruption and other misdeeds over two decades.
An aide to President Hu was demoted this summer after his son crashed a Ferrari he should not have been able to afford. Foreign media have also reported that family members of Mr Hu’s successor, Xi Jinping, and his prime minister, Wen Jiabao, have assembled vast fortunes.