There were so many soldiers that the military apparently ran out of transport vehicles and had rented tour buses to carry them all. The troops in the tour buses were armed with rifles. This was overwhelming force if I've ever seen it. We don't know exactly where 2they were heading or what their mission was — China has closed the door. But they may have been getting in place to enforce a deadline the Chinese had set for protesters to turn themselves in or face "harsh consequences."
We returned to the Tibetan neighborhood in Chengdu today. This time, the roads into the neighborhood were barricaded to traffic. I walked though, pretending to be shopping for Tibetan curios. There were paramilitary police everywhere, armed with semi-automatic weapons. Some wore helmets as if they were preparing for war. But despite the massive security presence, life was going on pretty normally.
Monks were chatting and laughing; shop owners looked bored.
Notably, there were no photos of the Dalai Lama anywhere, not even in the shops that sold religious relics. So, this is what old China must have felt like, I thought. Before they supposedly became more open, before they won the bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.