China imposed new border restrictions in Tibetan border regions Sunday, citing risks from terrorism, but the new measures also come as Tibetan's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, begins a popular Buddhist teaching event in India.
The Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper reported Monday that the new measure is aimed at combating the risk of ‘terrorism’ and ‘separatism’ in the region. Critics say authorities frequently invoke such fears when imposing new security restrictions on Tibetans, and Tibetan exile news media say there are signs the measures are aimed more at preventing Tibetans from traveling than improving security.
The new regulation was first announced in December by Tibet Daily, an official Tibetan language news outlet, which said it would take effect on January 1, 2017; however, the Tibetan language articles did not use the word terrorism as reason to make the restriction.
On December 15, Tibet Daily quoted Bagdro, the deputy head of Tibet border police force, as saying the “renewed” regulation focuses on restricting movements in border areas and stabilizing the region through economic and social development.
According to Tibet Post, a Dharamsala-based newspaper, the Chinese officials have confiscated passports of many Tibetans in Tibet in recent weeks.
The Dalai Lama is beginning teachings known as the Kalachakra in Bodh Gaya, India on Tuesday. It is the spiritual leader's most popular Buddhist teaching and is held at a holy site that’s believed to be where Buddha attained his enlightenment.
China has been showing particularly sensitivity to Tibetans from Tibet attending Kalachakra teachings in India by the Dalai Lama. According to Tibetan exile media reports, hundreds of Tibetans recently traveled to India, but the Chinese officials summoned them back to Tibet before the teaching began.
In 2012, thousands of Tibetans were believed to have been detained upon returning from the Kalachakra teaching. Chinese officials did not reveal the number of detainees, but according to International Campaign for Tibet, about 8,000 people from Tibet had attended the teaching in that year.
Tightening controls in Tibetan border areas has long been backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In 2012, at the 18th Party Conference, Xi said, “To govern the nation, one must govern the borders; to govern the borders, we must first stabilize Tibet.” This statement has since been seen as the foundation of Xi’s Tibet policy.