New York, Mar 26: The gateway to the Tibetan plateau, Chengdu, a city of 10 million people in the middle of China, has been blocked off at various points by police and paramilitaries, and if a New York Times report is to be believed, a virtual war is on the region between the Tibetans and the Chinese.
The paper quoted a monk in Chengdu's Luhuo County as saying that "Tibetans are dying for no reason. This is happening in remote places, and nobody knows." All roads leading to the west have been closed. Only convoys carrying soldiers and riot police officers are moving around to subdue Tibetan anti-government protests.
The NYT report says that Chengdu now feels like a border outpost, tense and anxious, at the eastern edge of what several Tibetans here described as a war.
"If it is a war, it is one the outside world cannot see. Police roadblocks have closed off a mountainous region about the size of France, spanning parts of the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai," says the New York Times.
Foreign journalists trying to investigate reports of bloodshed are turned away or detained. Tibetans wary of police retaliation, pass along second hand accounts of clashes, on condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, protesters and the police clashed in Garze, a prefecture of Sichuan, the state media and a Tibetan rights group said. Some 200 monks and nuns began a march earlier in the day that turned violent when the police sought to suppress the crowd, the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.
China's Xinhua news agency said the police opened fire in self-defense after the demonstrators attacked them with knives and stones. The rights group said one 18-year-old monk was killed and another was critically injured, while Xinhua said protesters killed one policeman.
The police said Chengdu itself is secure. But the Wuhouci neighborhood is enduring its own lockdown. Armed police officers now surround the neighbourhood. White patrol cars cruise the streets, flashing their lights as officers bark through megaphones at vehicles to keep them moving.
Last week, the local police called a news conference to dispel rumors of a bomb threat. Chinese shopkeepers gossiped about reports that a Tibetan man from Aba had stabbed and killed two Han Chinese in the city. The police confirmed that a stabbing had occurred, but said a single victim had only minor injuries.
Monks and other Tibetans, however, continue to meet in quiet corners.