Chinese military presence at Kumbum monastery in Tsoshar in eastern Tibet during this year's Monlam festival. Photo: TPI

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Dharamshala — Reports have indicated that Chinese authorities have been building up the military in preparation of Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10th. Chinese authorities allegedly held a major military drill in Lhasa on March 2 coined the 'wall of steel.'

The joint military drill on March 2 (2018) consisted of a mass show of force of ‘combat-ready’ troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP), underlining the heavy militarization of Tibet and the political importance at the highest-levels in China of Tibet’s ‘stability’.

The military drills coincided with the mass presence of troops at prayer festivals in monasteries in eastern Tibet, giving the impression of a war zone. Despite the heavy show of force, thousands of Tibetan pilgrims still came to monasteries and religious sites to offer prayers.

Chinese state media reported that the drills were held in order to demonstrate the resolve of the authorities to ensure ‘social stability’, though the show of force seemed more like a means to crush dissent and ensure allegiance to the CCP authorities in order for the authorities to pursue their strategic and economic objectives on the plateau without impediment.

This is just the latest example of extreme militarization on the Tibetan plateau. According to other sources, last month, China released images of fighter jets flying over the Tibetan plateau conducting aerial combat training exercises and announced its upgrading of Tibet’s military capabilities “in order to confront any threat from India”, according to a Chinese military specialist.

“The Western Theater Command of the PLA is mainly responsible for mountain warfare at the border area with India,” an article in The Global Times stated. The state media publication cited Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, as saying that it is “significant for China to strengthen control of airspace over the mountainous region.”

Tibetan Uprising Day has held political significance since 1959, as protests spread across Tibet against Chinese occupation. In 2008, protests spread again across the country, the largest protests against Chinese rule in Tibet since the original occupation in 1959. The 2008 uprising was led by over 400 monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery, who marched the streets of Lhasa and subsequent protests had spread throughout the country by March 14.

China has routinely met the anniversary of this date with massive shows of force, intensified surveillance, and banning all foreigners from the region during the month of March.

The Chinese Communist regime began their invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's invasion and occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.