“Please extend hospitality”: police codes in Tibet exposed

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Clampdown following shootings uses Orwellian surveillance and Orwellian language

Free Tibet has obtained photographs (1) of a notice circulated to police stations in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, outlining how they should monitor and control movements of Tibetans from Nagchu Prefecture, where peaceful protesters were shot and severely injured earlier this month (2). The notice advises officers to refer to Nagchu residents in the capital as “tourists” and relay their movements through Lhasa’s web of permanent police checkpoints so that their whereabouts are known at all times. The code urges policemen to “please extend hospitality” to Nagchu residents entering their area. The notice concludes with the instruction that police should “increasingly interrogate [sic] suspicious people from Nagchu”.   The notice, issued on 8 October, the day of the Nagchu shooting, is promoted to “implement the spirit of stability maintenance”. It provides letter codes representing each of the three counties in Nagchu prefecture and detailed instructions to ensure that when residents of these counties move from the zone of one police station into another, the latter is notified. The network of police stations forms part of the “grid” surveillance system designed to provide comprehensive intelligence to the authorities about the activities, loyalties and political views of Tibetans in Lhasa down to neighbourhood level (3).   The demonstrations in Driru, Nagchu Prefecture, arose out of Chinese attempts to force residents to fly the Chinese flag on their houses. The 8 October shooting in which 60 people were injured followed large-scale protests and clashes between Tibetans and security forces in the area the previous week. Thousands of officials had flooded the area earlier in September to impose a “political re-education” campaign on the local population. After being instructed to fly Chinese flags over their houses, Tibetans in Mowa township threw the flags into the river. Authorities responded by sending paramilitary and police forces into the area in large numbers. In subsequent clashes around 40 Tibetans were arrested and many were severely beaten and injured. A number of the most serious casualties were sent to hospital in Lhasa and their current conditions are unknown.   Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:   “In Tibet, China’s combination of violence, surveillance and propaganda models Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism with chilling precision. Political propaganda and re-education in Briru led to resistance which was met with brutal violence. Simultaneously, residents of the area hundreds of kilometres away in Lhasa are now subjects of the kind of micro-surveillance that sees individuals and communities constantly evaluated for loyalty and compliance, and constantly at risk of transgressing the rules.   “China tops off this totalitarian recipe with typically Orwellian language. When the ‘spirit of stability maintenance’ means ruthless suppression of freedom and the relentless gaze of a police state is called ‘hospitality’, the ‘Ministry of Love’ is not far behind.”   The information in this release was provided by Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch.   -ends-    For further information or comment, contact campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie: E: alistair@freetibet.org T: +44 (0)207 324 4605 Notes to editors (1)  Photo and translation available from Free Tibet (2)  http://www.freetibet.org/news-media/pr/60-tibetans-injured-security-forces-fire-peaceful-protest#   (3)  Human Rights Watch, March 2013