– China using massive surveillance grid to stop Tibetan self-immolation (Telegraph, Nov 9, 2012):
Officials at the 18th party Congress claimed yesterday that the ‘Skynet’ network has divided the region into a closely monitored grid and that teams of security personnel can be mobilised within two minutes to put an end to the suicide attempts.
Six Tibetans have doused themselves with petrol and set themselves alight since the eve of China’s once-in-a-decade leadership change on Wednesday bringing to 69 the number who are reported to have died in the past year.
Yesterday (FRI), thousands of students marched in protest in Rebkhong county, Qinghai province, according to Free Tibet, an activist group, and armed police stepped up their presence.
Speaking at the Congress in Beijing Losang Gyaltsen, the vice chairman of the local government in Tibet, said: “We do not want to see such incidents,” he said. “We do not want anyone to spoil Tibet as a happy region. For locals, we are checking IDs and for visitors we have checkpoints and security checks on travel.
“We also have a grid management system, so if any immolation happens in a certain block, we can launch an emergency rescue within two minutes,” he added.
Skynet is a highly secretive network and it is not known how many people work for it or how far is its reach. It has hardly been mentioned in official state media communications and is supposed to have a camera on every road in Tibet and in the Tibetan areas of Gansu and Sichuan.Beijing has been steadily expanding its use and in June, in a rare mention, it was praised as a way of combating crime in the region.
Lately there has also been a heavy security presence in Tibet’s temples. “There has been no immolation in the past year at any of the 1,700 temples and among the 46,000 monks in Tibet,” said Mr Gyaltsen.
He blamed the self-immolations on activists and “some monks outside the country”.
“Some overseas Tibetans are trying to achieve their ugly targets at the cost of others’ lives. It is immoral,” he said. So far, the Dalai Lama has yet to instruct his followers not to self-immolate.
Despite the tensions between Tibetans and Han Chinese, the party secretary of Lhasa, Che Dalha, said the city had been voted one of China’s happiest cities for five years in a row.
“For four of those years, it was number one,” he said. “It needs to be felt and experienced, so only the Tibetans can tell how happy they are. Lhasa has the bluest sky, the whitest clouds, cleanest water and air and happiest people,” he added.
Elsewhere at the Congress, corruption continued to preoccupy Communist party officials.
Wang Jingqing, the vice minister of China’s powerful and mysterious Organisation Department, which is responsible for internal HR, vowed senior leaders would battle corruption to preserve the “pure nature of the Chinese Communist Party”.
“Detachment from the people is the biggest danger to the Party’s governance,” he said, claiming that 668,000 party members had been punished for corruption in the last five years.
Without “strict party discipline” the Communist Party would “only be a pool of loose sand and will not achieve anything,” Mr Wang added.
But asked if he would support a policy under which leaders would have to publish their assets, he simply ignored the question.
Wang Ying, the head of the prosperous southern province of Guangdong, and a man who is often described as one of the Party’s reformers, also demurred over whether officials should make their wealth public.
Before the Congress opened, the New York Times revealed that the family of Wen Jiabao, the outgoing premier, had at least £1.67 billion of assets. The family of Xi Jinping, the incoming president, is worth some £235 million, according to a Bloomberg investigation.
“The Party central has clearly specified rules on the property ownership of government officials,” he said. “Guangdong has been exploring ways of publishing assets and will keep exploring in this direction. We will gradually do this according to policy from Beijing,”