China's Provinces Feel Crush of Tibet Crackdown A lockdown following anti-government protests in Tibet spreads to other Chinese provinces, where monks say they are confined to monasteries and forced to denounce the Dalai Lama. The unrest has undermined Beijing's ideal of ethnic harmony.
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China's Provinces Feel Crush of Tibet Crackdown

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China's Provinces Feel Crush of Tibet Crackdown

China's Provinces Feel Crush of Tibet Crackdown

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Say goodbye to an idea promoted by the Chinese government, a myth of China's ethnic harmony. Protests in Tibet led to fires and deadly violence this month. Now Tibetans and Chinese live alongside each other in fear, and the government's crackdown has spread to surrounding provinces.

Tibetan monks across the region are being forbidden to leave their monasteries, and they're being forced to denounce Tibet's Dalai Lama as a terrorist. We know this because one monk, under pressure, told his story to NPR's Louisa Lim. She's reporting from Qinghai Province, bordering Tibet.

(Soundbite of chanting)

LOUISA LIM: In the Tibetan monasteries, a battle over the Dalai Lama is being played out. Chanting the scriptures is now taking second place to a new government-orchestrated patriotic education campaign.

One monk took great personal risks to talk to NPR. He describes how monks now spend most of their days in political meetings during which they are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama and call him a terrorist. The monk's voice has been disguised to protect his identity.

Unidentified Man #1 (Tibetan Monk): (Through translator) In the meetings, they say the Dalai Lama wants Tibetan independence. They say he's isolated internationally, he's got no support. They say Tibetan independence will never happen.

LIM: The monk says there were no demonstrations in his monastery, but now he wishes he could have participated. He says new restrictions have been placed on the lives of the monks in his monastery and in many others in the surrounding area.

Unidentified Man #1: (Through translator) Now we aren't allowed out of our monastery. We have agents of the state security apparatus watching over our lives. They want all of us to live together in one room and eat together with them. When the agents aren't there, we monks aren't allowed to stay in a room together. We don't have any freedom.

(Soundbite of crowd of people)

LIM: There are signs that lockdown is not just of monasteries but of entire Tibetan regions of Chinese provinces which have seen unrest. In a once-bustling Tibetan market in Xining, the capital of Qinghai, shopkeepers say business has completely disappeared.

Unidentified Woman (Tibetan Shopkeeper): (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: Before, we had lots of Tibetan customers, says the boss of this shop selling religious objects who won't allow her name to be used. Now nobody's allowed out of their towns.

Unidentified Man #2 (Tibetan): (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: Of course we're scared, says another Tibetan. All Tibetans are scared. It's not just about myself, it's about my entire country, and he means Tibet, not China.

This wave of unrest sweeping over Tibetan regions has exposed Beijing's failures and undermined its carefully nurtured ideal of ethnic harmony. That much is clear when venturing out into the vast expanse of the Tibetan plateau, where grazing yaks make tiny black dots against enormous barren mountains.

(Soundbite of paddles scraping)

LIM: Five young pilgrims are prostrating themselves along a road circling Qinghai Lake. The wooden paddles in their hands scrape along the highway as the pilgrims road-surf, throwing their bodies facedown alongside the cars and lorries. They will do this for two months, they say, as a devotional practice. When they stop for a break, they describe lives lived within a Tibetan enclave.

Mr. TSE-CHEN (Tibetan Pilgrim): (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: I've got no Chinese friends, says 20-year-old Tse-chen, because we're Tibetan. We don't have anything to do with the Chinese.

(Soundbite of sheep)

LIM: China has poured money into developing Tibet and the surrounding provinces in the past half a century, hoping for gratitude and loyalty in return. Sixty-nine-year-old Tsering Dolma is an example of one who's benefited. She gets paid a regular salary by a government unit for herding sheep, and because her family is classified as poor, she gets extra government subsidies.

Ms. TSERING DOLMA (Shepherd): (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: My life is much better than my parents', she says. My parents were very poor, and now my life is better because of the government's good policies.

But even though subsidies seem to heighten local tensions, with several Han Chinese complaining that Tibetans gain special treatment, Beijing has encouraged the resettlement of Han Chinese to push forward economic development and heighten its control of Tibetan areas.

It's a measure of the resentment against this policy that Tibetan rioters in Lhasa attacked Chinese businesses two weeks ago. Now other Chinese living alongside Tibetans are scared, like Ye Fulin, who runs a restaurant on the banks of Qinghai Lake.

Mr. YE FULIN: (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: There are many Tibetans here, so we're worried, he says. What would happen to us if the Tibetans here become violent? This is their kingdom.

It seems these days the one thing Tibetans and Chinese alike have in common is fear.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Qinghai Province, China.

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