Communications crackdown on Tibetans in Drago county

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Communications crackdown on Tibetans in Drago county

China has tightened restrictions on Tibetan residents of a county in Sichuan province that has been a hotbed of resistance to Chinese rule, imposing measures to prevent contact with people outside the area, sources with knowledge of the situation said.

The communications clampdown in Drago county is the latest measure by Chinese authorities to bring locals to heel following the demolitions of huge Buddha statues in the area beginning 2021, as monks and local residents were forced to watch, sources in the region said. 

Drago county is called Luhuo in Chinese and lies in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, the historical Tibetan province of Kham.

“Beginning January this year, local Chinese authorities in Drago county have warned Tibetans living in the region to stop communicating with people outside Tibet,” said one of the sources who requested anonymity for safety reasons. 

“Their cell phones are randomly probed and restricted from sharing any kinds of information with the outside,” he said. “They are also not allowed to contact their family members or send money.”

report issued in January by Free Tibet and its affiliated research arm Tibet Watch said Chinese authorities have ramped up repression of Tibetans, razing significant religious structures while committing serious human rights violations in Drago county.

The demolition of Tibetan Buddhist sites escalated under Drago county Communist Party chief Wang Dongsheng, who had earlier overseen a campaign of the expulsion of Buddhist clergy and destruction at Sichuan’s sprawling Larung Gar Buddhist Academy.

“Ever since Wang Dongsheng was appointed as county chief in Drago, the campaign against the Tibetans has gone from bad to worse,” said another Tibetan who declined to be identified for fear of his safety. 

“There have been massive communication clampdowns and other security measures put into place,” he told RFA. “Also, the staff and those with authority in the monasteries have been forced to attend re-education programs.”  

Since 2008, Drago county residents have participated in acts of resistance against the Chinese government, prompting interventions by authorities, including significant crackdowns in 2009 and 2012. 

Beijing views any sign of Tibetan disobedience as an act of separatism, threatening China’s national security.

-a RFA report