Chinese police in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu confiscated the merchandise of hundreds of Tibetan street vendors on Monday, citing health concerns over the possible spread of coronavirus in the city, sources say.
The move following a lifting of restrictions on other businesses in the city has led to growing tensions between Tibetans and the police, with Tibetan vendors in Chengdu’s Wohao Ci neighborhood claiming they are being discriminated against, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service on June 2.
“For the first time after months of shutdown, Tibetan traders and street peddlers have started again to sell clothing, jewelry, and fruit at the Xime Chu Huo street market in Chengdu, but Chinese plainclothes and uniformed police have now ordered them to leave the area and have confiscated their goods,” the source, a local Tibetan businessman, said.
“From now on, they are not allowed to sell anything in the area,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A video clip circulating on social media, and seen by RFA, shows Tibetan traders pleading their case with police, with one woman asking why they are being treated “differently” from other vendors in the area, saying “We are Chinese citizens, too.”
Of the nearly 200 to 300 street vendors in the area, almost all are Tibetans, with the others Han Chinese, RFA’s source said.
“Some of the Tibetans are engaged in petty business to make a living while they’re here in Chengdu looking after loved ones who are in hospital. Most of them came from Amdo and Kham and were expelled from [Tibet’s capital] Lhasa during the national uprising in 2008,” he said.
“They’re only trying to make ends meet, and this denial of the Tibetans’ rights is only making their lives more difficult and sad,” he said.
The traders have now been told that the market area lacks proper hygiene, and that they are therefore not allowed to sell goods there, the source said. “But in reality, the Chinese Public Security Bureau is more concerned about the large crowds of Tibetans that the market area attracts.”
Police have also warned the Tibetans that they will be taken into custody if they come down to the police station to try to recover their goods, he said.
“Tibetans not officially residents of Chengdu are finding it harder and harder to get leases from Chinese landlords, and even Chinese taxi drivers hesitate to take Tibetans on as passengers,” he said, adding that discrimination against Tibetans in Chengdu is now widespread.
Reported by Chakmo Tso for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.