BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities are tightening controls in an ethnic Tibetan region where at least 10 people set themselves on fire and hundreds demonstrated last month to protest Chinese rule, a news report said Thursday.
Huangnan prefecture in western China's Qinghai province is beefing up security and taking steps to shield the area from outside influence to deter self-immolations, the state-run, web-based Qinghai News reported. The local government will also use economic rewards and punishments to crack down on the practice.
China has blamed exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his associates for the self-immolations in Qinghai and other Tibetan regions, but supporters of Tibetan rights say the fault lies with Beijing's oppressive rule of the Himalayan region.
The number of incidents spiked in November when the ruling Chinese Communist Party held a national congress to install its new leaders for the next five years.
In Huangnan, local authorities are stepping up police and military patrol of public areas and setting up checkpoints to keep foreigners out of the Tongren area, home to the restive Rongwo monastery, Qinghai News said.
The 600-year-old monastery has been the scene of several self-immolations. In the town of Rongwo, hundreds of Tibetans staged a demonstration in November, shouting for independence and for the return of the Dalai Lama, according to witnesses.
To discourage self-immolations, the prefecture will thoroughly account for inflammables, monitor residents and organize propaganda teams to condemn self-immolations. Authorities will confiscate illegal satellite dishes that allow local residents to receive anti-China programs from abroad, register every business that sells satellite signal receiving devices, and replace 3,000 television sets in monastery dormitories.
The government will "handsomely" award those who offer tips on premeditated acts of self-immolation, report any instigators, dissuade self-immolations or put out fires on the scene. It will also use economic tools — such as canceling social security and postponing projects — to punish the villages where self-immolations occur and the people who visit family members of self-immolators, Qinghai News said.