Chinese armed forces in full riot gear deployed during the Machu horse racing festival in eastern Tibet on August 12 to deter public protests. (Photo/TCHRD)
DHARAMSHALA, August 21: Chinese authorities issued a notice barring Tibetans from setting themselves on fire and deployed hundreds of armed forces during a recently concluded horse racing festival in eastern Tibet.
With the wave of self-immolations continuing to burn across Tibet, local Chinese authorities took stringent measures ahead of the annual horse racing festival at Machu (Chinese: Maqu) in Kanlho, Gansu on August 12 to prevent public protests.
The Dharamshala based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in a release Monday said that in addition to deploying an unprecedented number of People’s Armed Police personnel at the popular festival, local Chinese authorities also issued a 11-point public notice asking Tibetans to refrain from using the annual event to express their grievances in public.
“The notice, issued in both Tibetan and Chinese language, barred anyone from carrying 'flammable' and 'poisonous' objects and engaging in protest activities at the event venue, and added that violating the rules listed in the notice would attract punishment ranging from 'detention' to prosecution in the courts,” TCHRD said.
In pictures obtained by the group, Chinese armed forces in large numbers can be seen patrolling the gathering of Tibetans.
TCHRD has also released copies of the notice, in both Chinese and Tibetan languages, issued at the festival.
Point number ten of the notice states that activities such as demonstrations, protests, appeals, self-injury, suicide, self-immolation and beating, smashing, and looting are deemed illegal and thus banned at the event.
While point number six bans objects such as fire crackers, flammable liquids, bows and arrows, swords and other objects made of iron, as well as poisonous substances from the festival, point number five bans anyone from carrying documents and leaflets relating to political, religious, cultural and economic matters to the venue without prior permission from the relevant authorities.
“The notice, applicable to both participants and spectators at the event, further stated that whoever violated the rules would be barred from the festival in future and corresponding actions would be taken according to the law of the government,” the release said.
Attended by thousands of people from all over Tibet and China, the Machu horse racing festival was not held for a few years after the widespread 2008 Tibet uprisings.
The deepening crisis inside Tibet has witnessed large scale anti-China protests and a series of self-immolations that has now seen 50 Tibetans set themselves on fire, since 2009, demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.
In March this year, Chinese authorities in the same region had issued public notices
encouraging the general public to secretly report to the police any “illegal” activities aimed at harming “social stability” and “national unity”.
The notice issued in all eight counties of Kanlho, labeled participation in “illegal” organisations and “fabricating and disseminating rumors on social networking sites,” as acts “endangering national security” and “harming social stability.”