By Erik Crouch
It was only a matter of time before two of China’s most inflammatory topics collided: passports and Tibetans. Although primarily designed for their provocative watermarks, Chinese passports may also be used for international travel. According to the South China Morning Post, however, Tibetans have experienced great difficulty receiving new passports following a Chinese government bait-and-switch (more like bait-and-steal) that occurred last year:
“Hardly any” Tibetans have been able to get passports since new restrictions were introduced in April, forcing passport seekers to undergo much stricter vetting procedures than regular Chinese citizens […]
Tibetans were all told to turn in their passports, which would be replaced with electronic passports.
However, the new passports never showed up, and now many Tibetans are left without the documents, and thus unable to travel.
China’s relationship with the Tibetan Autonomous Region has deteriorated significantly over the past several months, and the passport-grab is seen as a way to prevent Tibetan dissidents from seeking asylum outside of the country. Nearly 100 Tibetans have self-immolated since March of 2011.