Print, copy shops told not to deal with any documents in Tibetan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2010, 12:00am

Authorities in Tibet have ordered a crackdown on printing and photocopying shops in the regional capital Lhasa in the government's latest bid to tighten control in the restive Himalayan region.

The new measure, aimed at restricting Tibetans' access to printing and copying services, has been questioned by many mainland-based Tibetan analysts.

They said such a harsh move, which the government said was necessary to 'prevent illegal activities', would only fuel tensions and mistrust between Tibetans and the authorities following a crackdown on Tibetan intellectuals over the past few months.

The Lhasa Evening News reported last week public security authorities were considering a new rule that would require the operators of printing and copying businesses to re-register with the authorities and help the government collect the names, addresses and identity card numbers of their clients.

A police officer at the city's public security bureau confirmed the report yesterday. 'We've carried out a city-wide survey of all printing and copying shops and will kick-start the new measure in due time,' he said. He played down the impact of the move but said it was being introduced due to 'the needs for security and stability'.

According to the newspaper report, which was also carried by Xinhua, unauthorised printing and copy shops will be shut down and operators who fail to abide by the rules will be subject to severe punishment.

The report has caused a stir on the internet and even surprised government-linked experts.

Dr Tanzen Lhundup, a researcher at the government-backed China Tibetology Research Centre, said the move was unwise and would prove to be unpopular. 'I've never heard of such measures in the history of Tibet, including those turbulent days in the past,' he said. 'The public should be properly consulted first and the power of local public security authorities must be subject to legal and public scrutiny.'

Beijing-based Tibetan activist Tserang Woeser said the printing and copying crackdown had been under way since February. Citing her experience during a trip to Lhasa earlier this year, she said businesses had been told not to photocopy material printed in the Tibetan language, including books, pamphlets and Buddhist scriptures.

'I was stunned by the obviously discriminatory measure and those operators said they were given no alternative because the order came from the authorities,' she said.

The rule was part of a clampdown on Tibetan monks, activists and intellectuals who dare to speak out against the sweeping political controls imposed since deadly riots in Lhasa more than two years ago, she said.

'The authorities apparently want to silence dissent and wage an anti-separatist war in the art and cultural arena,' she said.

Tagyal, a renowned Tibetan writer, was taken away by police in Qinghai late last month after publishing a book critical of Beijing's handling of the anti-government riots in Tibet in 2008 and more recently criticising quake relief efforts in Qinghai's Tibetan-populated Yushu county.

Tagyal is believed to be among more than 30 Tibetan writers, bloggers, singers and environmentalists to have been detained or imprisoned in the past two years, according to a report by the International Campaign for Tibet.

'The new move will only impose fear and fuel tensions in the region and ... can only invite further resistance,' Tserang Woeser said.