Chinese Troops Mobilize in Provinces Near Tibet

Chinese authorities issued pictures of the 21 most wanted men in connection with last week's violent riots in Lhasa, Tibet. China says 16 people died in the rioting, while Tibetan exile groups say 99 people have been killed. In Lhasa, intrusive house-to-house searches have been taking place, according to Georg Blume, a German reporter from Die Zeit.

One of the two last western journalists to be expelled from Tibet on Thursday, Blume says, "We saw police are moving around and checking on people. I think all the young Tibetans in Lhasa are very afraid. They said to us that they need to prove that they didn't take part in the demonstrations, otherwise they risk arrest."

The unrest came after five days of peaceful protests and triggered a wave of angry anti-Chinese demonstrations elsewhere. Blume says huge numbers of security forces deployed in the capital, sealing off the major monasteries.

"We saw a very big military convoy on Sunday, where we could easily count a few thousand, if not 6,000 military personnel moving from inside the city outside to the area of the monasteries," he says. "So there were thousands and thousands of these military police in Lhasa at one point."

McClatchy journalist Tim Johnson says he saw three separate large convoys of security forces in Sichuan province, which borders Tibet.

"They would go along in convoys of 25 or 30 vehicles," says Johnson. "Each convoy would have a mobile ambulance, some sort of paddy wagon, armored vehicles for what looked like riot-control purposes, troop carriers. It looked like a whole sort of field expedition to deal with something where they would have to stay out for a long time and deal with injuries, arrests and that sort of thing."

That massive mobilization is flooding other provinces neighboring Tibet, too. An eyewitness in Gansu province Friday said he saw a convoy of around 3,000 troops. Villages had been sealed off, he said, and soldiers armed with AK47s were sitting by the road.

Johnson says in Litang, which neighbors Tibet, government control is "absolute."

"If authorities come in and shut every store in a municipality and tell people to park their cars and walk everywhere so they can't work and can't get transport around the city," he says, "it's pretty close to martial law."

China says the unrest was instigated by exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, a claim he denies. On Friday, House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited with the Dalai Lama in India, calling for an international investigation to clear his name. As she met him in the Indian town of Dharamsala, she said the world's conscience is now on trial.

"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet," Pelosi said, "we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world."

The question now for the rest of the world is how to respond. In this Olympic year, China had been looking forward to presenting its success story on the international stage. Instead, it's locking down the "Roof of the World," creating a new militarized zone. With its image in tatters, Beijing is now desperate to prevent any more outside eyewitnesses from chronicling either Tibetan discontent or Chinese suppression.



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