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11.03.2009 Asia

Freedom under Chinese Boot in Tibet

By Nava Thakuria

The freedom of Tibetans is barely surviving under the boot of Chinese authority. The Himalayan region, now ruled by Beijing, is in desperation for its own space for self rule, which finally tempted the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to comment that the authority had turned his homeland into a 'Hell on Earth'.

The Nobel Laureate addressed the media on the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule to express his anger. His voice on the March 10 meeting at Dharmsala in India was loud and clear, where the legendary exile leader accused the Chinese authority as being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.

Expressing frustration in his speech, the Buddhist leader commented hat the repeated rounds of talks with the Chinese officials resulted nothing for the aspiring Tibetans. Rather they brought untold suffering and destruction to the Himalayan region following the massive uprising on March 10, 1959, asserted Dalai Lama, who himself later fled to India during the same year.

Meanwhile, the Reporters Without Borders has come out with an official statement that the Chinese authority was responsible for the systematic violation of press freedom and free expression in Tibet.

The region, adjacent to North India, is no way or little exposed to foreign journalists. Nobodies except the Chinese journalists are allowed to visit the region and report about.

“Foreign journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to visit the Himalayan province and free speech is being suppressed even more ruthlessly there than in the rest of China,” said the statement of the Paris based media rights body, also known as Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF). It also added that RSF had already urged the Chinese authorities to allow foreign journalists to visit Tibet freely.

The statement additionally revealed that the authority had arrested the editor of a Tibetan website. Moreover, a Tibetan culture website has been closed and SMS services have been suspended in parts of Sichuan province in the last few days.

Kunchok Tsephel Gopey, the editor of the Tibetan website Chomei (The Lamp), was arrested in Gannan on February 26. It is feared that Gopey is being mistreated, as the authority did to him during his earlier jail term in 1995. Relatives said the police searched his house and confiscated his computer. The Internet connectivity has been slow in the Tibetan regions.

“We also call on them to grant the Tibet-based media more editorial freedom and to stop jamming international radio stations broadcasting in the Tibetan language,” the RSF statement insisted adding, “The crackdown launched after the events of March 2008 have never stopped.

The authorities have gone to great lengths to impose the official version of events, denying the existence of Tibetan victims.”

Even if the foreign journalists arrive in Tibet, often on tourist visas, they find that Tibetans are scared to talk to them. Often they may be asked to leave the place as quickly as possible.

There is a general feeling of mistrust and paranoia as a result of the massive presence of security forces and the security cameras installed in many places in the city,” informed a European journalist who visited Lhasa, the capital of Tibet in 2008. The local residents in Lhasa even believe that there are microphones and cameras at street corners, in shops and in taxis, which have been installed and monitored by the Chinese authority.

Nava Thakuria,
Guwahati, Northeast India