China attempts to cut off Tibet from outside information: Rights group

Sutirtho Patranobis, Beijing (HT): With more restrictions on information and communication across the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), the residents are virtually cut off from independent news and have access only to government propaganda, a global rights group claimed on Friday.

Tight control on information is accompanied by almost paranoid limitations on Tibetans traveling to the region from other parts of the country, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.
Nearly 40 Tibetans have self-immolated since last year to protest against what they perceive as policies that suppress the rights of the Tibetans and undermine their culture and identity.

Quoting official news sources and interviews of senior officials, the New York-based group said: “The measures (to control information) involve significantly increased controls, particularly in the TAR, on internet use, text messages, phone ownership, music publishing, and photocopying, as well as intensified government propaganda through new TV channels, village education sessions, film showings, distribution of books, and the provision of satellite television receivers with fixed reception to government channels.”

The group quoted Communist Party of China (CPC) secretary, Chen Quangu, directing officials in June to “make sure that the Central Party’s voices and images can be heard across 120 thousand square kilometers,” and that “no voices and images of enemy forces and Dalai clique can be heard and seen.”

HRW added that controls on travel from inland provinces into the TAR have also been tightened significantly since March 2012, with new limitations on travel into the TAR by monks, nuns, and lay Tibetans from outside the TAR. “Additional restrictions on travel by foreigners to the TAR were introduced in May 2012 and again in early June,” it added.

Travel restrictions were tightened after two Tibetans from Sichuan and Gansu set themselves on fire in Lhasa on May 27, 2012. “Tibetans from those provinces or from Qinghai who do not have permanent residence in Lhasa, including many with valid business permits and valid temporary registration permits, are reported to have been forced to leave the TAR,” HRW said.

Beijing has routinely dismissed allegations that it has suppressed rights of the minority Tibetans, saying the region is witnessing a surge in development.

Between January and June this, the government said more than 2.8 million tourists – including over 32000 foreigners – visited the region generating a revenue of more than 381 million USD. The government is building airports, railways and new roads to improve transportation; the aim is to attract 15 million visitors annually by 2015.

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