China tightens border rules in Tibet to counter 'separatists'

Beijing
3 Jan 2017

China has tightened border rules in Tibet, extending the already stringent rules to ports, trade zones and scenic spots, citing growing incidence of "separatist and terrorist activities" amid efforts to make the remote Himalayan region South Asia's trade hub. The designated border areas under Sunday's new regulation now include land ports, trade zones and scenic spots, expanding the scope of the old regulation that has been in effect since 2000, state-run Global Times reported late yesterday. As Tibet further opens up with fast economic development, border areas have witnessed more disputes and diverse criminal activities, including those involving separatism, illegal migration and terrorism, the report quoted Badro, deputy head of the Tibet border police, as saying.

It also quoted Wang Chunhuan, deputy director of the Theoretical Marxism Institute of the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences (TASS) who backed the amendment, explaining what the update in rules meant. "The update of border regulation provides a legal foundation to combat potential terrorist activities in the future brought by the further opening-up of Tibet as the Belt and Road initiative has positioned Tibet as a gateway to South Asia, even though the border areas do not face severe terrorist challenges at present in general," Wang said. The new regulations came as China is trying to make Tibet a hub for trade and transport to South Asia through Nepal with road and rail connectivity. While the previous pro-China Nepalese Prime Minister, K P Sharma Oli, had signed a transit trade deal with Beijing in March last year to counter Nepal's dependence on India, his successor Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda is under pressure to implement the deals. China also agreed his request to build a strategic railway link between the two countries from Gyirong, the last Tibetan county which shares border with Nepal.

China plans to extend the railway later to India and other South Asian countries to promote trade.

Last month, China formally launched a rail and road cargo service linking Tibet and Nepal with dozens of trucks carrying USD 2.8 million worth of goods. Tibetan refugees have been alleging that Nepal is cracking down hard on the Tibetans leaving the Himalayan region to visit the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Official reports say that Tibet economy is booming. Tibet reported a total trade volume of more than 5.66 billion yuan (USD 815 million) in 2015, engaging in bilateral trade with 77 countries and regions including with India through the border point in Sikkim, the Global Times report said. It also received more than 23 million tourists last year, a 15 per cent year on year increase, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today. (PTI)