By Tenzin Monlam
Chinese military drill in front of Potala Palace, March 2, 2018
DHARAMSHALA, March 6: In the build up to the 59th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10 and the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Uprising, the Chinese military with a show of power conducted a massive drill in Lhasa, the capital city of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) on March 2.
Calling it the ‘Wall of Steel’, the drill was a joint operation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP) to showcase it is ‘combat ready’ if any protest erupts during any time of the month. The Chinese considers the month of March as ‘politically sensitive period of the year’.
Heavy security around Lhasa during the month becoming a norm, the show of military power underlines the heavy militarization of Tibetan plateau and the political importance to maintain its ‘stability’.
The show of power was not limited to Lhasa, on the same day a large number of Chinese military personnel swarmed into Kumbum Monastery during the Monlam Chenmo Prayer. Videos of Chinese military marching have been circulating in various social media platform. They also had installed scanning machines at the entrance of the monastery.
Yesterday at the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing, China increased its 2018 defense budget by 8.1 percent amounting to $175 billion.
Calling it a move to ‘firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty and security’, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the opening statement of the Congress said, “Faced with profound changes in the national security environment, the absolute leadership of the military by the ruling Communist Party must be observed, and the unity between the government and the military, and the people and the military, must always be strong as stone.”
China also announced that it has reduced the strength of its 2.3 million People’s Liberation Army to 2 million. However, the reduction happened only in the ‘non-battle personnel’ division.