Tibet border restriction affects local trade and family gatherings

Temba and his wife Paten Sherpa, permanent residents of Olangchungola in ward 7 of Phaktanglung Rural Municipality, live in an animal shed near Sinjema lake. They raise yaks in the highlands and also provide food and accommodation for visitors. They have three children who study in Phungling, the district headquarters of Taplejung, and in Kathmandu.

The Sherpa couple has been tending to animals in the isolated pasture, situated around 47,700 metres above sea level, just a few hours walk from the nearest human settlement. Their shed is close to the Tiptala Bhanjyang, near the Nepal-China border in Taplejung. There is Riu settlement of Dinggye County of Tibet, an autonomous region of China, just across the border. Riu, which is 35 km from the Nepal-China border, is Paten’s maternal home. While it takes around five hours on foot to reach the Nepal-China border from Sherpa’s shed, by bus it takes one hour. “But I have not been able to visit my maternal home for the past four years. The way to my maternal village is inaccessible as the Nepal-China border remains closed for a long time,” complained Paten.

The Chinese government closed Tiptala Bhanjyang border point amid a coronavirus threat in January, 2020. Due to the protracted border closure, hundreds of locals in the northern villages of Taplejung have been unable to meet their relatives in Tibet for four years now.

Bhujung and Bhomo Sherpa of Mauwatar in Olangchungola have a similar ordeal like that of Temba and Paten. Bhomo, who was born in Tibet, married Bhujung of Bhotkhola Rural Municipality in Sankhuwasabha district. The couple later migrated to Mauwatar and began rearing yaks. They are happy with the income they earn from rearing animals, which supports their livelihood and three children’s education. However, Bhomo has one complaint—the border has become a barrier preventing her from meeting her parents in Tibet.

Temba and Bhujung would frequently visit Tibetan markets for trade, transporting various goods on yaks. During their visits, they formed connections with Tibetan girls, whom they eventually brought back as life partners. “We never imagined that the border would close some day leaving us unable to visit our relatives,” said Bhujung.

The Chinese authorities installed a telephone repeater tower near the Nepal-China border. But it is not useful for the Nepali side. Nepalis living near the border have to trek down to Olangchungola to make a phone call. Although there is a 2G network of Nepal Telecom in Olangchungola, it does not support online communication platforms like WhatsApp and Viber.

“We have to walk for five to seven hours just to make a phone call to my maternal relatives in Riu. It would take me less time to reach my maternal home than to get to Olangchungola. But the closed border is a barrier in my way,” said Paten, who is in her mid-forties.

Tsering Kipa, who has been living in Olangchungola with her husband Dandu Sherpa, is in her early seventies. She has a strong desire to reunite with her maternal family in Tibet. Her husband Dandu also shares her longing and wants to support her. But their wish to visit their relatives in Tibet will remain unfulfilled unless the Chinese authorities reopen the border.

According to Chheten Sherpa Lama, ward chairman of ward 7 of Phaktalung Rural Municipality, there are at least 18 women in Olangchungola and Yangma settlements who have their maternal homes in Tibet. He said that many Tibetan women married to Nepali men from Ghunsa, Phale, Mikkakhola among other settlements as well.

Chheten claimed Nepali side tried their best to reopen the border, but to no avail. According to him, the chief of Dinggye County telephoned him in September last year and informed that the border would reopen soon. Accordingly, the then chief district officer of Taplejung Goma Devi Chemjong distributed border identity cards to the people living in northern villages bordering Tibet.

“We have discussions with the representatives of the county. They tell us that the border will reopen once they get permission from the centre (Beijing). The government of Nepal should talk to the central government of China,” said Chheten.

Trans-border trade and animal husbandry have been hugely affected by the border closure. People living near the Nepal-China border rely on Tibet for their daily essential commodities, as the area has yet to be connected to the national road network. Tibet also serves as a major market for them to sell a variety of products including medicinal herbs and domesticated animals.

Chief of WHO Declares Gaza a “Death Zone”

The Israeli military said Wednesday that it had carried out airstrikes in northern and southern Gaza, as the head of the World Health Organization said the enclave had become a “death zone.”

Israeli media reported that the Israel Defense Forces had announced the death of one soldier killed Tuesday in heavy fighting in northern Gaza, bringing to 237 the number of troops killed in the offensive against Hamas.

The IDF said it had carried out strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, including weapons depots and tunnels. In the south, it reported having killed dozens of militants, including in the Khan Younis area.

Medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres said Israeli forces conducted an operation Tuesday in Al Mawasi, northwest of Khan Younis, where a shelter hosting MSF staff and their families was shelled.

The organization said at least two family members of staff had been killed and six wounded, including two children who suffered burns.

“We are horrified by what has taken place,” MSF wrote on the social media platform X.

U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said he was “appalled” by the attack.

“Humanitarians are putting their lives on the line,” he wrote Wednesday on X. “Like all civilians, they must be protected.”

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Brazilian newspaper Folha, Griffiths urged G20 members meeting in Rio de Janeiro this week to use their political leadership and influence to help end the war in Gaza, where the Palestinian death toll is approaching 30,000.

“The atrocities befalling the people of Gaza — and the humanitarian tragedy they are enduring — are there for the world to see, documented by brave Palestinian journalists, too many of them have been killed while doing so,” he wrote. “No one can pretend not to know.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said Wednesday that Gaza “has become a death zone.”

“Much of the territory has been destroyed, more than 29,000 people are dead, many more are missing, presumed dead, and many, many more are injured,” he told reporters in Geneva.

WHO has worked this week with the Palestine Red Crescent Society to evacuate patients from the besieged Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis to two field hospitals in southern Gaza. Tedros said they had carried out several emergency missions.

“Around [111] sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain in the hospital,” he said.

Israel accuses Hamas of operating in and under the hospital.

Cease-fire demands fail

The latest fighting followed the failure Tuesday of the U.N. Security Council to demand an immediate cease-fire, after the United States vetoed an Algerian-drafted resolution that had the support of 13 of the council’s 15 members.

“Demanding an immediate, unconditional cease-fire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said of the proposed text.

Algeria first presented the council with its text three weeks ago and delayed a vote to give negotiations led by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar for the release of the hostages time to succeed. But the country’s ambassador said silence was no longer an option.

“We are rapidly approaching a critical juncture where the call to halt the machinery of violence will lose its significance,” Ambassador Amar Bendjama said of Israel’s impending incursion on the southern city of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

Israel’s envoy called the idea of a cease-fire “absurd” and not a magic solution.

The United States is proposing its own draft resolution, which was presented to council members on Wednesday, diplomats told VOA.

Seen by VOA, it supports a “temporary cease-fire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” It also objects to an expected major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, saying “it should not proceed under current circumstances.”

Israel has warned it plans to carry out an offensive on Hamas targets in Rafah before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan if the hostages are not released. Ramadan starts around March 10. Israeli officials have also spoken of evacuations of civilians from the area without providing any detailed plans.

Israel began its military campaign to eliminate Hamas after the group’s fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and taking about 250 others hostage. Hamas, designated a terror group by the U.S., the U.K. and EU, is believed to still be holding about 130 hostages in Gaza, including 30 who are believed to be dead.

Interpreting Summertime Rainfall Differences on the Tibetan Plateau

The Tibetan Plateau (TP), a complex high-altitude region with an average elevation of 4,000 meters, is widely recognized as the “Asian Water Tower” and “the third pole.” Changes in precipitation over the TP significantly affect the water cycle in the surrounding areas, directly and indirectly affecting the lives of millions of people and ecosystems. Despite extensive efforts to project future precipitation changes over the TP due to global warming, there remains a considerable range in the magnitude of existing projections. The underlying physics causing this inter-model spread in precipitation projections over the TP remains unclear. Therefore, gaining insight into the precipitation response to global warming and identifying sources of uncertainty are critical to improving the reliability of these projections.
In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters on Feb. 1, researchers highlighted the persistent increase in precipitation throughout the 21st century, with the most significant changes occurring along the southern edge of the TP. However, they found substantial inter-model variability in precipitation projections, emphasizing that model uncertainty dominates the overall uncertainty in the medium and long term.
Led by Prof. ZHOU Tianjun from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the researchers used an inter-model empirical orthogonal function analysis of projected precipitation changes under a very high greenhouse gas (GHG) emission scenario, referred to as “SSP5-8.5” in climate modeling.
The analysis showed that the leading principal component explains over 40%, and even 80%, of the total variance at regional scales. Moisture budget analysis indicated that the increase in precipitation is primarily driven by enhanced vertical thermodynamic (TH) responses to the increased water-holding capacity of the atmosphere, with a weak effect from the vertical dynamical (DY) term. However, both vertical DY and TH components contribute to the leading mode of inter-model spread in precipitation projections.
“The vertical TH component is significantly related to the climate sensitivity among the models involved in the phase-6 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, suggesting that models projecting a warmer climate also tend to project a stronger TH term,” said QIU Hui, first author of the study and a Ph.D. student from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The researchers further revealed that the inter-model spread of the dynamic component is influenced by the equatorial Pacific warming pattern through the Walker Circulation change, which controls diabatic heating over the Marine continent and leads to atmospheric circulation changes that affect northward moisture transport to the southern TPs.
“Both the model weighting technique and the selection of high skill models with better performance of historical climate simulation have been traditionally used to increase the robustness of climate projection in previous studies,” said Prof. ZHOU Tianjun, corresponding author of the study, “Our results enrich the research by highlighting that the diversity in CMIP6 models projecting precipitation changes over the TP is not only related to local model performance, but is influenced by the overall performance of climate models in the context of climate sensitivity and the response of equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature to global warming.”
The researchers also examined the relationship between the thermodynamic term and climate sensitivity under scenarios with low (termed as “SSP1-2.6”) and intermediate (termed as “SSP2-4.5”) GHG emissions, and found similar results to scenarios with very high GHG emissions. They call for further research into the inter-model variability of the response of equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature to global warming.

As the US vetoes a UN Truce Resolution, Israel pounds Gaza.

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.
Global powers trying to navigate a way out of the spiraling crisis have so far come up short, and mediation efforts have so far failed to secure a truce to halt the fighting, AFP said.
Adding to Gaza’s woes, the UN’s food agency said Tuesday that it had to stop desperately-needed deliveries to the north of the territory after facing “complete chaos and violence” there — a decision condemned by Hamas.
The World Food Programme had only just resumed deliveries Sunday but said its convoy was met with gunfire, violence and looting, while a truck driver was beaten.
“We are shocked about this decision by the World Food Programme to suspend the delivery of food aid in northern Gaza, which means a death sentence and death for three-quarters of a million people,” the Hamas government media office said Tuesday night.
Calling on the agency to “immediately reverse its disastrous decision”, it said “we hold the United Nations and the international community responsible”.
Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza has been plunged into a food crisis, with outside aid severely restricted.
The UN has repeatedly sounded the alarm over the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, warning that food shortages could lead to an “explosion” of preventable child deaths.
More than four months of relentless fighting have flattened much of the coastal territory, pushing 2.2 million people to the brink of famine and displacing three-quarters of the population, according to UN estimates.
“We can’t take it anymore. We do not have flour, we don’t even know where to go in this cold weather,” said Ahmad, a resident of Gaza city, where streets are strewn with rubble from destroyed buildings and garbage.
“We demand a ceasefire. We want to live,” he said.
Ceasefire veto
But in New York, Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by Algeria, which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the “unconditional” release of all hostages kidnapped in the October 7 attacks.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, called the vote “wishful and irresponsible” as it could put negotiations to free hostages in Gaza “in jeopardy”.
The veto provoked criticism from countries including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and even close US allies France and Slovenia.
Hamas said the US veto equalled “a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres”.
As world powers voted, Israeli strikes pounded Gaza early Wednesday as fighting on the ground raged on, leaving 103 people dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
Witnesses reported heavy fire in areas around Gaza, including the south of the territory’s main city Khan Yunis and Rafah near the Egyptian border, where around 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter.
Rafah, Gaza’s last city to face a ground invasion by Israeli ground troops, is also the main entry point for desperately needed relief supplies via Egypt.
Qatar, which has played a key role in mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, said Tuesday that medicines sent into Gaza under a deal co-negotiated by France had reached the hostages held by Hamas, in exchange for a shipment of humanitarian aid.
But overall, negotiation efforts have failed to secure a longterm truce and despite international pressure, Israel has insisted that a ground operation Rafah is essential to destroy Hamas.
The war started when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,195 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the territory’s health ministry.

Leaders of global humanitarian groups said a ground offensive could turn the Rafah into a “graveyard”, warning of the “truly unimaginable” consequences of a full-scale assault.
Israel has said that unless all the hostages are freed by the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, it will push on with its offensive during the Muslim holy month, including in Rafah.
G20 firestorm
On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa — is expected to land in Egypt and then head to Israel Thursday to advance a hostage deal.
McGurk will also reiterate US President Joe Biden’s concerns about an Israeli operation in Rafah, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Adding to the international chorus of criticism of Israel, Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday accused Israel of committing a “genocide” of the Palestinians in Gaza — echoing comments made by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula sparked a diplomatic firestorm with his comments ahead of the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro opening Wednesday, and Israel have declared him “persona non grata”.

In Singapore, Tibet Air signs a 50-jet contract.

Chinese carrier Tibet Air has finalised its order for 50 jets from China’s state-owned COMAC plane manufacturer.

The paperwork was signed on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow.

Tibet’s order consists of 40 C919 jets and 10 smaller ARJ21’s which are designed to operate at high altitude airports.

COMAC said the C919 can become an alternative to the single-aisle dominance of the Airbus A320 family and Boeing’s 737 MAX line.

For now, the plane is only certified within China and the four jets currently in operation are flown domestically by China Eastern Airlines. But COMAC said its order book now stands at more than 1,000 for the model.

China’s Challenge To The Indian Air Force In Ladakh And A Bit Of Tibet

The Indian Air Force’s Leh base, the challenge from the China and Pakistan two-front threat, protecting India’s borders from Chinese aggression and preserving Tibet’s Buddhism from Chinese repression is the subject of this documentary. In ‘The Himalayan Frontier’ Part VII here’s a look at Shakti & Shanti (Power & Peace) in Ladakh. We record a day in the life of the Indian Air Force’s Air Warriors at the Air Force Station (AFS), Leh in Ladakh that is at the frontline of dealing with the China and Pakistan two-front threat. Continuing our series, a StratNews Global team of Amitabh P. Revi, Rohit Pandita and Karan Marwaha document the IAF Mig-29, Sukhoi-MKI and Rafale fighter jets, the C-17 Globemaster, Il-76 and An-32 transport aircraft and the Cheetals of the ‘Siachen Pioneers’ 114 Helicopter Unit in their operations at, to and from the Indian Air Force’s AFS, Leh. India has ramped up its military posture along the Northern borders after the deadly 2020 Galwan clashes with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces. And the Indian Air Force’s AFS Leh plays a significant role in that.

‘The Himalayan Frontier’ Part VII

In this episode, we film the Indian Air Force’s Mig-29, Su-MKI and Rafale fighter jets, the C-17, Il-76 and An-32 transport aircraft, the IAF and Indian Army Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv & Rudra and sorties conducted by the Cheetal helicopters, speak to the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 114 Helicopter Unit (HU), Mig-29 and Cheetal pilots and the Engineering Officer, 114 HU to document the Indian Air Force’s operations in the northern Himalayan frontier along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Eastern and Southern Ladakh and China-occupied Tibet, and in the Siachen Glacier as well as along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) with Pakistan. We also visit the Thiksey Gompa or Monastery modelled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Priceless Buddhist religious literature, documents and thangkas at the Gompa have been smuggled out of Tibet to preserve them from Chinese repression.

Northern Front Ground Reports

In earlier episodes of this series, in Part VI, we interview Air Commodore D.S.Handa, AOC of the Indian Air Force’s AFS, Leh on how the IAF is dealing with the two-front China and Pakistan threat in Ladakh. SNG’s team document its journey to Leh on the strategic third, alternate axis—the Darcha-Padam-Nimu (NPD) Road, in episode III and episode IV. The route provides critical connectivity. In episode V, Lt Gen Raghu Srinivasan, the DG, BRO in an interview on the frozen Zanskar River Chadar Trail at Chiling near Leh in Ladakh notes “the impetus for connectivity has over the last five or six years been a surge in what we are planning to do and are doing in Ladakh”. In part II of this series, the Indian Army Chief, General Manoj Pande tells StratNews Global Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale in an exclusive interview, that talks with China are continuing at both military and diplomatic levels but India is maintaining a robust posture along the LAC. Then Northern Army Commander, now Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen. Upendra Dwivedi also tells Nitin Gokhale in Part I, that the “situation is stable but sensitive and not normal”.

Israel denounces Lula of Brazil for comparing the Gaza War to the Holocaust.

Israel has condemned Brazil’s president after he accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, comparing its actions to the Holocaust.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Israel’s military campaign was between a “highly prepared army and women and children”.

Israel’s foreign minister described Lula’s comments as antisemitic and said he was “persona non grata” in the country until he retracted them.

The main Jewish organisation in Brazil has also criticised Lula’s comments.

Speaking from an African Union summit in Ethiopia, Lula said: “What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments. In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.

“It’s not a war of soldiers against soldiers. It’s a war between a highly prepared army and women and children.”

The veteran left-wing politician condemned Hamas after its gunmen killed at least 1,200 people and seized 253 hostages in a surprise attack on Israel on 7 October.

But he has since been vocally critical of Israel’s retaliatory military campaign, which the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says has killed more than 28,800 people, mainly women and children.

His latest comments come after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with an offensive in Rafah – the southernmost Gazan city, where some 1.5 million people have fled – in the face of increasing international pressure.

“We will not forget nor forgive,” Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in response.

“It is a serious antisemitic attack. In my name and the name of the citizens of Israel – tell President Lula that he is persona non grata in Israel until he takes it back.”

Mr Netanyahu earlier said Lula’s remarks amounted to “Holocaust trivialisation and an attempt to harm the Jewish people and the right of Israel to defend itself”.

“The comparison between Israel and the Holocaust of the Nazis and Hitler is crossing a red line,” he said in a statement.

Six million Jewish people were systematically murdered by Hitler’s Nazi regime during the 1930s and 1940s.

Israel summoned the Brazilian ambassador for a meeting on Monday.

The Brazilian Israelite Confederation – the country’s main Jewish organisation – said Lula’s remarks were a “perverse distortion of reality” which “offend the memory of Holocaust victims and their descendants”.

Lula endorsed South Africa’s case of genocide brought against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year.

Judges at the ICJ ruled in January that South Africa’s case against Israel could proceed.

The court instructed Israel to prevent its military from committing acts which might be considered genocidal, to prevent and punish incitement to genocide, and to enable humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

But the court stopped short of calling on Israel to immediately halt its military operations in Gaza.

Brazil and South Africa are members of the Brics group of countries – an alliance of some of the world’s most important developing economies brought together to challenge wealthier Western nations.

On the ground in Gaza, the World Health Organization has said the territory’s Nasser hospital has ceased to function following an Israeli raid. The IDF said its operation was “precise and limited” and accused Hamas of “cynically using hospitals for terror”.

Meanwhile, efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have been taking place in Cairo, though Qatar mediators said recent progress was “not very promising”.

Due to the Gaza War, Israel’s GDP shrank more than anticipated.

Israel’s economy shrank by far more than expected in the wake of conflict with Hamas in Gaza, according to official figures.

Gross domestic product (GDP) – a key measure of a country’s economic health – fell by 19% on an annualised basis in the fourth quarter of 2023.

That is the equivalent of a fall of 5% between October and December.

GDP was “directly affected” by the outbreak of the conflict on 7 October, the Central Bureau of Statistics said.

Israel and Hamas have been at war after gunmen from the Palestinian group launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from Gaza – the deadliest in Israel’s history.

About 1,200 people were killed during the attack. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the US, the European Union and the UK, also took more than 250 men, women and children hostage.

An Israeli military campaign has followed, which has killed 29,000 people in the Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there.

Experts said the data released on Monday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics was much worse than had been expected.

The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of analysts was for an annualised decline of 10.5%.

The Central Bureau of Statistics said the war had sharply curtailed spending, travel and investment at the end of last year.

It said private spending dropped by 26.3%, exports fell by 18.3% and there had been a 67.8% slide in investment in fixed assets, especially in residential buildings. The construction sector suffered from a lack of labour, due to military call-ups and a reduction in Palestinian workers.

Meanwhile, government spending, mainly on war expenses and compensating businesses and households, jumped by 88.1%.

Despite the sharp drop in GDP between October and December, Israel’s economy grew by 2% for the full year.

However, before the 7 October attacks, it had been expected to expand by 3.5%.

Liam Peach, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said the contraction of Israel’s economy was “much worse than had been expected and highlights the extent of the hit from the Hamas attacks and the war in Gaza”.

He said the country’s growth outlook for 2024 “now looks likely to post one of its weakest rates on record”.

Elsewhere, the conflict has affected trade. Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have been targeting cargo ships on the Red Sea that are heading to the Suez Canal.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Monday that the attacks had cut Suez Canal revenue by between 40% and 50% this year.

The Red Sea is one of the world’s most important routes for cargo – almost 15% of global seaborne trade usually passes through the area.

The Houthis have been carrying out strikes from bases in Yemen on ships which they claim are Israeli-owned, flagged or operated, or are heading to Israeli ports. However, the owners and operators of many vessels claim they have no links with Israel at all.

The US and the UK have carried out retaliatory strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen in turn.

But even before this, some of the world’s largest shipping companies had stopped their vessels from passing through the strait.

China’s biometric monitoring program in Tibet advances to integration initiatives

The Chinese government in Tibet is linking the various biometric surveillance systems and databases. It’s the next logical step after deploying so many of the systems to maintain control of the region.

It’s unlikely that remote and sparsely populated Tibet is monitored in the same blanket fashion as China’s Xinjiang region, but according to a new report what information has been collected is being tied into numerous biometric and other databases controlled by the autocratic government in Beijing.

The report was created by two public policy organizations that advocate for Tibet’s restored independence – Turquoise Roof and Tibet Watch.

They say the Chinese government has, since 2021, required Tibetans to install the National Anti-Fraud Centre app, which government officials say has attack-prevention and -reporting functions.

Police reportedly have set up roadblocks and force travelers to download and enroll the app right there using facial recognition.

According to the report, the government has made downloading the software a legal requirement. Officials allege that they are only trying to reduce internet fraud in a region with a 2022 gross domestic product of US$29.7 billion.

The authors report interviewing Tibetan sources and nationals arriving in India as refugees. They also had access to “big data generated from official government sources, mobile digital forensics in the context of contemporary Tibet, and in-depth analysis of surveillance System Description Documents.”

In other sections of the report, the authors refer to and quote an unnamed a “Tibetan refugee” from the Golog areas. It’s unclear how many refugees were interviewed.

They say they conducted a “dynamic analysis” of the anti-fraud app on Windows and Android devices and found that data collected by the software “could extend beyond internet fraud detection.” The app is capable of linking to “broader control mechanisms.”

More broadly in Tibet, according to the report, Beijing has integrated “AI-driven systems fusing facial recognition with internet browsing and app-based monitoring” to DNA and GIS tracking data.

For example, there is the “’Tibet Underworld Criminal Integrated Intelligence Application Platform’, a sophisticated big data policing platform.” Researchers reportedly analyzed procurement notices to find that it “amalgamates data from various existing Public Security Bureau systems in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) into a central Oracle database.”

The authors say there are reports that people accessing offshore financial companies with their phones are picked up for an investigation.

The US suggests a resolution to the UN requesting a “temporary ceasefire” in Gaza.

The United States has drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip “as soon as practical” and opposing an Israeli ground offensive on the southern city of Rafah.

The draft, seen by Al Jazeera on Monday, said the Security Council should underscore “its support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practical, based on the formula of all hostages being released” while also “lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale” in Gaza.

The US draft also warns Israel not to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, saying: “The Security Council should underscore that such a major ground offensive should not proceed, under the current circumstances.”

Israel has said it plans to storm Rafah, where more than 1.4 million of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza have sought shelter. Those plans have prompted widespread international concern that such a move would kill large numbers of civilians and sharply worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

Algeria, the current Arab member of the Security Council, put forward an initial draft resolution more than two weeks ago, which would demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel’s war on Gaza.

The Algerian draft resolution was due to be put to a vote on Tuesday. US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield previously signalled that it would be vetoed, saying it could jeopardise the “sensitive negotiations” on the captives taken by Hamas and other armed groups from Israel into Gaza on October 7.

The US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar have held negotiations on a potential Israel-Hamas truce and the exchange of captives held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Reporting from UN headquarters in New York, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays says Washington’s draft resolution appeared to show a significant change in language.

“For the first time, the US is proposing the word ceasefire. … That is significant because Israel did not want the word ceasefire in any resolution, and now it is the US which is proposing it,” Bays said.

Since October 7, Washington has sought to shield its ally Israel from UN action and has twice vetoed Security Council resolutions. But it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza and called for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in fighting.

“The US draft now raises the idea of a ceasefire but does not say there should be one straight away, …. so this may not be acceptable to the Russians,” Bays said.

Both the US and Russia are veto-wielding permanent members of the council.

Noting Washington’s warning to Israel on launching an operation in Rafah, Bays said it showed that, according to the US, this operation would cause further harm to civilians and also lead to their displacement, particularly into neighbouring countries, which would in turn have serious implications on regional security.

“So something very clearly has changed in Washington in the last 24 hours. They’ve decided to be tougher on Israel,” Bays said.

It is not immediately clear when or if the US draft resolution would be put to a vote.

At least 29,092 people have been killed and 69,028 wounded in the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to Palestinian authorities. At least 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on official Israeli figures.