A guard station located on the northeastern corner of the Potala Palace Photo: Wu Jie/Sino-US.com
On June 20, the Potala Palace took a tranquil look after the city was baptized by this year's second rain on the previous day, clearing up the sky. But the travelers to the holy city could not be as happy-go-lucky as the impression the palace gave us on that day, because of the constant scrutiny by the plainclothes policemen.
"What are you doing here," asked a Tibetan lad, as we journalists got off the chartered bus holding professional cameras. The short young man did not draw attention from us, but he again interrupted us when we raised a banner for group photos, saying seriously "What is it? You cannot raise a banner here."
After our explanation, he walked away. Maybe he mistakenly regarded our behavior as the omen of a mass disturbance.
The name of the argus-eyed policeman is Songnan Rending. He is only 19 years old and is a recruit of the local armed police forces. His duty is to patrol the square of the Potala Palace as a plainclothes policeman.
Songnan told me that there are six plainclothes policemen patrolling the square every day, with each equipped with a gun. Each of them works for four hours a day and changes shift every two hours.
Except for the plainclothes policemen, a guard station is located on the northeastern corner of the square, responsible for ensuring the security of the square.
"The guard station was established in late 2011 to deal with emergencies and offer public services," said Luo Junguo, the head of the guard station, adding that the guard station helped enhance the security of the area because the policemen from the nearest police station could not reach the scene on time in case of an emergency.
Luo Junguo, the head of the guard station Photo: Wu Jie/Sino-US.com
Luo said that no crowd violence event has occurred in the square, but added that after the terrorist attacks in Xinjiang his fellow soldiers were given a training, which enables them to rush to the scene within three minutes. The staff of the guard station is equipped with stab-resistant body armor, lachrymator and gun, according to Luo.
I observed that a guard station of the kind is deployed in the downtown area of Lhasa every one or two kilometers, and can be found more easily than grocery stores. If one wants to enter the Potala Palace guarded by armed police, he or she must pass through tight security checks.
(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi)