Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tibet has become China’s Gaza Strip

The Chinese continue their crack down on Tibetan independence activists who have been demonstrating around the March 10th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1959. According to today’s London Times:
Dozens of Tibetan prisoners were paraded on military trucks in Lhasa yesterday, with their heads bent and wrists handcuffed behind their backs, as soldiers from China’s People’s Liberation Army tightened their grip on the Tibetan capital.

As a midnight deadline approached for rioters to surrender, soldiers carried out house-to-house searches. Some of those suspected of taking part in the mayhem last Friday, when Tibetan anger at Chinese rule erupted into racial hatred with stabbing and beating of ethnic Han Chinese and the burning of shops, banks and businesses, had already been detained.

Four open army trucks carrying about 40 people, mostly young Tibetan men and women, drove in a slow convoy along main roads, witnesses said. Loudspeakers on the trucks broadcast calls to anyone who had taken part in the riots to turn themselves in. Those who gave themselves up might be treated leniently, the rest would face severe punishment, the broadcasts said.

The search for those involved began in earnest in Lhasa yesterday as office workers trickled back to work after a weekend of fear. Soldiers began house-to-house searches, checking all identification papers, residents said. Anyone unable to show an identity card and a household registration permitting residence in Lhasa was being taken away.

The unrest has spread swiftly into neighbouring provinces in China with a large ethnic Tibetan population. In an extraordinary development late yesterday, nearly 100 students in Beijing staged a daring vigil.
And this report from the International Campaign for Tibet:
Tibetan students held a silent vigil in Beijing today to honor the courage of Tibetan protestors in Tibet. The group of around 50 students (pictured) sat silently in a circle with heads bowed outside the Central Minorities University in the Haidian district of western Beijing this evening for around six hours. They were surrounded by an official security cordon preventing outsiders and other students from joining the protest, although some foreign reporters succeeded in gaining brief access to the protestors.

While some Tibetan students are known to have taken part in the pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in June 1989, this is the first known demonstration by Tibetans in China's capital.

According to a source who received a message from Beijing, the students were allowed to leave at around 1 am, which appears to indicate that the authorities had followed a strategy of containing the protest in order to avoid provoking further dissent. It is not clear whether reprisals will follow. One source reported that a senior Beijing official arrived at the protest to ensure it was closed peacefully.

There was also a peaceful protest today by students at the South-Western Minorities University in Chengdu, although details could not be confirmed at the time of going to press.

These two peaceful vigils follow a peaceful sit-down protest yesterday (March 16) of around 200 Tibetan students on the campus of from the Northwest Minority University in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province. In a message to a Tibetan in exile, one of the students said: "We are staging our protest in a very peaceful means and we are going to held a candle light vigil tonight." A foreign reporter who spoke to some of the students said that some of the students knew people who had been killed during the protests of the past week in Tibet, and that they wanted to pay silent tribute to their courage. One report said that some students in Lanzhou held a further sit-in today.

The protests by Tibetans in Beijing took place hours before the deadline imposed by the Chinese authorities for Tibetans to hand themselves in if they had taken part in rioting and demonstrations in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, over the past few days.

According to sources, the atmosphere in Lhasa is now 'terrifying', with soldiers carrying out house to house searches and taking people into custody. Tibetans who have pictures of the Dalai Lama are targeted and in some cases have been taken away. In an instant message communication with a Tibetan in exile, one Tibetan reported: "A [details withheld] university student child was taken by police. He was hit and as of now still can't stand." When asked why, the same source said: "Because he had a picture of Kundun [literally 'the presence', a reference to the Dalai Lama] around his neck."
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao clearly laid the blame for the unrest on the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader and temporal head of the Tibetan government in exile. He said, "There is ample fact - and we also have plenty of evidence - proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," in Beijing at the end of the annual National People's Congress.

The Chinese are waiting on the Dalai Lama to die. They clearly believe time is on their side and once the Dalai Lama all their problems in Tibet will disappear. They fail to realize that anti-Chinese actions of Tibetans are way beyond the Dalai Lama’s control or inspiration. They are the result of Chinese oppression of Tibetan people and the slow decimation of Tibetan culture. Resentments have grown that will not go away once the Dalai Lama leaves the scene. The problems are a result of failed political policies and can only be resolved politically.

Jürgen Kremb has this assessment in Der Speigel:
…Beijing's distrust is … fuelled by the fact that the Dalai Lama remains head of the Free Tibet Campaign, which demands freedom and independence.

That may seem like a desirable outcome -- that Tibet receives its freedom like Kosovo and East Timor. But that has little to do with realpolitik. China would never consent to an independent Tibet -- neither a Communist People's Republic nor the nationalist power which is currently flexing its muscles in Asia. A "democratic China," developed through increasing trade with the world, is merely a chimera called into being by dreamers in the West. China sees Tibet as a "domestic affair" and as such is not willing to listen to council from outside its borders. Furthermore, America's human rights record of the last few years has made it easy for China to follow an aggressive course.

The problem, though, is that China has to understand that in a globalized world, there is no such thing as problems that are purely "domestic." It makes no sense for Beijing to clutch to a concept of sovereignty straight out of the 19th century. Lhasa long ago became China's Gaza Strip. The Dalai Lama no longer has complete authority on Tibetan streets and in Tibetan monasteries. It is the Tibetan Youth Congress that sets the tone these days.

This is a radical group of exile Tibetans that has withheld support for the Dalai Lama for years. They say that his peaceful path has failed to secure freedom for their homeland and that Tibetans must follow the path of other liberation movements, like the Palestinians or the East Timorese.

But it wasn't the Dalai Lama who fostered these angry youth, but rather the reluctance of China to seek out a political solution for Tibet. Like the children of Gaza, they are the product of social exclusion and cultural oppression. They won't allow themselves to be bossed around by the Chinese authorities or any other. China had been simply waiting until the Dalai Lama dies before they dealt with the Tibet problem -- the Tibet Youth Congress dooms that approach to failure.
You can read his entire article here.

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