This military move was also seen as a warning to the Indian government following ongoing border issues between India and China. In fact, in September 2020, China conducted an air defence alarm test in Lhasa amidst this border tension. Caught between the two Asian giants, Tibet falls prey to further intense militarisation.
On 5 January 2021, a dozen Chinese military choppers were spotted flying over the historic Tibetan Palace, Potala in Lhasa in central Tibet. The aerial drill came not too long after the US Congress passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act on 21 December 2020. The US Act gives a huge boost to the Tibetan cause as it reaffirms the US’ support for the right of Tibetans to choose the 14th Dalai Lama’s successor, something which the Chinese Communist Party has sought to have control over.
The aerial drill was conducted by the People’s Liberation Army, according to Tibet Watch, Free Tibet’s research partner. The drill sought to prevent any demonstration in Tibet in support of the new US Act and caused fear that China could order a fresh crackdown in Tibet if there is any sign of unrest in Lhasa.
Many of us have seen them (choppers) but we do not dare to discuss it. The weather (coded language for political atmosphere) is not good here these days.– A Tibetan resident in Lhasa