With reports coming in of heightening tension and growing security clampdown in eastern Tibet, media crew from the US based Cable News Channel (CNN) on Tuesday were detained and thrown out of the troubled region by Chinese authorities.
A video clip released by CNN shows its crew members apprehended by Chinese security personnel while trying to enter the besieged Kardze region in eastern Tibet from the city of Chengdu, further east. The crew reports that the city itself has police vehicles stationed on every corner with armed police patrolling the streets.
“Our hope is to get to the Tibetan autonomous zone, in the mountainous region of Sichuan province,” CNN crew Stan Grant reports, explaining that the region has been locked down in an ever-growing wave of self-immolations and violent retaliation by Chinese police on Tibetan protests.
“We’re so close, only an hour or so away. And then the light. Within minutes, we grind to a halt. A policeman is flashing a flashlight in my face. Our Chinese driver is already outside the car. We won’t be going any farther tonight,” Stan Grant said in a three-minute, forty-second video clip.
Since March 2011, 16 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet calling for the return of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and protesting China’s continued occupation of Tibet.
Following the fiery wave of self-immolations, Tibetans have come out on the streets, expressing solidarity with the self-immolaters and calling for continued activism and a boycott of celebrations during the Tibetan new year ‘Losar’ next month.
At least a dozen Tibetans are feared to have been killed in Chinese police firings on unarmed Tibetan demonstrators in three separate incidents in Serthar, Ngaba and Drongo region of eastern Tibet.
“Don’t you know what has happened there? It’s not safe and you must leave,” Chinese police on patrol told the CNN crew as all cars entering Kardze are being stopped.
Checking identification papers, police were shown turning away reporters and those with foreign passports.
Chinese authorities have already banned foreigners from visiting central Tibet from mid-February through March.
The ban encompasses two important events; the Tibetan New Year from February 22-24 and the Tibetan national uprising day commemorated on March 10. Three years ago, demonstrations on March 10, 2008 had led to the biggest ever pan-Tibet uprisings seen for many decades.
CNN further reported that thousands of Chinese security forces have flooded the area with additional military reinforcements deployed in an effort to “impose order” in the region.
CNN also confirmed earlier reports from sources in exile that all telephone lines and mobile connections in Ngaba and Kardze regions were cut, throwing the entire area into a perilous isolation form the world.
The video clip recorded minutes before the crew were detained for five hours says: “There is hysteria, bigotry and fear here.”
“It is fueled by government secrecy and a constant stream of military and police vehicles. Much of the province is in lockdown,” CNN reported.
Later, Chinese authorities blacked out CNNI in China when the report was aired.