DHARAMSHALA, February 13: A British reporter from the Guardian newspaper was able to sneak into the distraught Ngaba (Ch:Aba) region of eastern Tibet and provide a rare glimpse of the situation from behind the iron curtain of Chinese repression.
Entering one of the most restive regions of Tibet, which alone has witnessed 15 self-immolations, Jonathan Watts of the Guardian
newspaper in a short video clip
reports that being in Ngaba reminded him of being in the “conflict zones in Iraq and Northern Ireland” at the height of their trouble.
“On the roof of the world, Chinese paramilitaries are trying to snuff out Tibetan resistance to Beijing's rule with spiked batons, semi-automatic weapons and fire extinguishers,” Watts reports. “Every 20 metres along the main road of Aba, the remote town on the Tibetan plateau that is at the heart of the current wave of protests, police officers and communist officials wearing red armbands look out for potential protesters. Dozens more paramilitaries sit in ranks outside shops and restaurants in an intimidating show of force”.
Road blocks after road blocks, spot checks and the security presence, according to Watts speaks of the “really intense tension" in the region.
"Essentially you've got a town that's on edge - a town that's divided between the potential immolators and those standing by to extinguish," Watts says while showing Chinese fire trucks near the Kirti monastery and Chinese officers armed with fire extinguishers around the town.
“Outsiders are not supposed to see this,” Watts says. “The Chinese authorities have gone to great lengths to block access to Aba.”
“The authorities have blocked internet and mobile phone signals. Checkpoints have been set up on surrounding roads to keep outside observers, particularly foreign journalists, away.”
Watts further reports that in the city's Tibetan quarter, police patrol cars are parked “every few dozen metres” with Tibetans in the area “desperate for information.”
"My mother, father and husband are still there. It's a worry. I haven't been able to call for more than a week," the report quotes a restaurant owner from Serthar as saying. Serthar also remains cut off after at least half a dozen Tibetans were feared killed in police firings on unarmed Tibetan protesters last month.
"The government says only one person was killed, but we heard dozens were taken away and we don't know what has happened to them."
Earlier attempts by journalists from the BBC
to enter the restive regions of eastern Tibet were foiled by Chinese security personnel. The journos reported of heavy military presence and a strict security clampdown on roads leading in to Tibetan areas.
The reporters were detained for several hours and threatened of visa cancellations.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) in a statement earlier this month took strong exception to the restrictions imposed on entering Tibet by the Chinese government and called for "unfettered access" to the Tibetan areas.
“The Chinese authorities have set up a massive security cordon in an attempt to prevent journalists from entering Tibetan areas in Western Sichuan Province where major unrest – including killings and self-immolations – has been reported,” the release said.
“The FCCC considers this a clear violation of China’s regulations governing foreign reporters, which allow them to travel freely and to interview anyone prepared to be interviewed”.