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China Marks Tibetan Anniversary with Military Parade

Anti-Dalai Lama Rhetoric Features at National Congress

Paramilitary policemen march in formation in front of the Potala Palace during a parade around the March 10 anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, March 10, 2017.

Every year on March 10, Tibetans and supporters worldwide mark the anniversary of the 1959 Lhasa uprising. That was the moment when popular anger against eight years of Chinese control boiled over into protest, triggering the bloody imposition of direct rule by the Chinese Communist Party and the flight of the Dalai Lama into exile. For this year’s 60th anniversary, the exile community in India organized especially large demonstrations, as did diaspora communities stretching from Australia, the Americas, and Europe to Tokyo and Taipei.

In China, authorities responded, as they have for years, by closing Tibet to foreign tourists for the “sensitive” month of March and calling for intensified security, in a region already tightly surveilled. Provincial leaders exhorted their well-equipped security forces to “severely crack down on the threat of separatist destruction” through “preventive control” – despite a history of peaceful protest in Tibet. As has been evident in the past, the central leadership in Beijing has presumably ordered security forces to prevent any visible incident of dissent.

To drive the message home, authorities staged mass rallies in Lhasa and other provincial cities on March 7. In Lhasa, thousands of armed police and other security forces from across the region gathered to “pledge” loyalty to the Party and its political objective of “comprehensive, long term stability.” In his address, head of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Stability Maintenance Command, Ding Yexen, called on them to “intimidate and terrify hostile forces and splittist forces, giving them nowhere to hide.” This was followed by a parade of armored vehicles and military hardware through a city that has not seen armed opposition to the state since the last members of Tibet’s disbanded national army were rounded up and imprisoned 60 years ago.

Meanwhile, Communist Party secretary Wu Yingjie and other TAR officials attending the National People’s Congress, the country’s annual legislative meeting in Beijing, insisted that Tibetans “love the Communist Party (for ‘liberating’ and ‘developing’ their country) more than the Dalai Lama.”  A new series of editorials in the flagship Party newspaper, Tibet Daily, denouncing the exiled Tibetan leader at great length as a “reactionary” and “lackey of hostile foreign forces” suggests that the Party remained concerned by his influence.

Despite the command of overwhelming force, China appears still to be struggling for the control of history in Tibet 60 years on.

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