Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tibetans in Chengdu: Has China found its fear?

Update: I spoke to someone who was just on the phone with a non-Chinese observer in Chengdu. The word is that at least three people were killed in Chengdu in the past two days in ethnic disturbances. Warnings are being issued against visiting the province.

It's 12:30 in Bangkok, 01:30 in China

How are people in China interpreting the situation? It's nothing like I might have expected. Looks like China may have chosen to play the "fear of terror" card. John Kennedy at Global Voices searched the Chinese website Twifan "for reports of unrest having spread to the provinces surrounding Tibet." He translated what one resident of the Tibetan quarter of Chengdu in Wuhou district of Sichuan Province wrote on Monday night:
7:55 pm Monday, Fanfou user o8o8o8

I was just in the crowd and got the latest info! Chengdu's military district has already gone on highest alert, and troops have now been dispatched toward Tibet. Wuhouci Rd. going both north and south have been completely sealed off . . . Shuhan Rd. and another side street are completely filled with police cars which have stopped all traffic. A rough estimate, there's over 200 police, and over 100 police cars of every kind. There's also around 50 police motorbikes, patrolling the streets non-stop in formations of groups of three.

Where Wuhouci Rd. E meets Wuhouci Rd. W, there are also fire trucks. Both Wuhouci and Ximianqiao streets have completely become pedestrian streets, not a single car on either. Walking down the streets all you see are flashing police lights. Right now, you do not want to go into crowded areas and start pushing around.

The tons of explosives they shipped here to Chengdu from Tibet aren't to be seen now, they've disappeared. Police sent out an internal notice warning a few days ago, that [bleep]ists had entered Chengdu in an attempt to carry out terrorist strikes. These people have spent years overseas studying demolitions and are highly skilled at it, with cruel methods. Experienced police from all over Chengdu have been transferred here.
The message continues:
It's advised that everyone do their best to not go outside over the next few days and prevent the occurrence of any accidents. Starting yesterday, Chengdu police and the army have already locked off parts of the city and are doing inspections. Keep your activities away from areas with large numbers of buildings; if possible, please stay at home!
My first thought on reading the message was: my this sounds familiar! It sounds a lot like what an American living in New York or Washington D.C. might have written circa October 2001. (What's this about people studying overseas to do "terrorist strikes?")

Americans are familiar with the game by now. Been there, done that. Maybe the two countries have more in common than anybody thought, and cross-cultural understanding is not a pipe dream after all.

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