Protests break out in Tibetan capital against China’s strict Covid restrictions
Angry residents in the Tibetan regional capital of Lhasa took to the streets on Wednesday to protest the harsh COVID-19 lockdown that Chinese authorities have imposed on them for more than two months, Radio Free Asia has learned.
They were the first protests in the city since the 2008 Tibetan Uprising, a series of demonstrations against the Chinese government’s treatment of the ethnic minority group. Chinese police and military forces crushed that uprising, killing dozens.
Videos obtained by RFA show scores of protesters on the streets. A daytime video shows people mostly standing or milling about, with officials in white protective suits standing nearby. In two nighttime videos, crowds and cars block a large street and the crowd surges forward while raising their voices.
Protesters can be heard speaking both in Tibetan and Mandarin Chinese in the videos, but it’s hard to decipher what they were saying.
Sources informed RFA’s Tibetan Service that the protesters warned Chinese officials that they would “set off a fire” if they refused to lift Covid lockdown restrictions, enacted under Beijing’s Zero-Covid Policy.
The protesters did not specify what they meant exactly, but they might have alluded to self-immolations, more than 150 of which have happened since 2009.
Based on street signs and restaurant names that RFA located on maps, the protesters appeared to be on the street in the “Chakrong” area, in Lhasa’s Chéngguān district in the eastern part of the city, as well as in the Payi area of the city.
One source also told RFA that Tibetans in Lhasa fear that scuffles between civilians and Chinese police could turn violent,.
Translated by Tashi Wangchuk. Written in English by Eugene Whong.