Friday, March 14, 2008

Chinese crack down on Tibetan independence demonstrators

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) invaded and seized control of Tibet in late 1949. Approximately half of Tibet was incorporated into surrounding Chinese provinces in 1950 and the remaining country was formally annexed by the PRC in 1951. An uprising by Tibetans against the Chinese occupation began in 1956 and spread until it was finally crushed in 1959. Tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed and the Dalai Lama fled to exile in India along with an estimated 80,000 refugees. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960’s, the Chinese Red Guard conducted a campaign to destroy Tibetan cultural sites. During this period an estimated 6,500 Buddist Mondastaries were destroyed and only a few of those left standing were not vadalized. Opposition to Chinese rule flares up from time to time and is always burtally suppressed.

Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10th, and subsequent days, has marked demonstrations and rallies by Buddhist monks and Tibetans against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. These are thought to be the largest protests against Chinese rule in over two decades. Rioting has broken out in the Tibetan city of Lhasa. According to the BBC, people are setting fire to cars and shops and destroying anything of Chinese influence. According to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, U.S. citizens have reported hearing gunfire. According to the New York Times, Chinese security forces have surrounded Buddhist monasteries in Lhasa as part of a crackdown on the monks. The situation is being reported to the world by groups such as the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

This assessment is from the International Campaign to Save Tibet:
Conditions are said to be increasingly tense within the three major monasteries in Lhasa, which are under lockdown and surrounded by troops following peaceful demonstrations over the last three days by hundreds of monks from Drepung, Sera and Ganden monasteries on the outskirts of the capital. Ganden monks demonstrated yesterday, marking the third day in a series of protests unprecedented in recent years that have now rippled through the Lhasa area, while others are reported in at least two remote rural monasteries and towns in areas of central and eastern Tibet.

All three monasteries are closed off to tourists according to several tourism operators. Two Drepung monks are said by Radio Free Asia to be in serious condition after stabbing themselves in a possible attempt to commit suicide, while monks at Sera are refusing to attend classes and are on hunger strike in a bold act of protest despite the crackdown at the monastery.

The number of Tibetans detained as a result of the protests could not be confirmed today. Although the initial response on the ground appears to have been more restrained than expected, there are indications that the authorities have begun a process of investigation in monasteries that could lead to detention and torture in a standard official pattern of reprisals followed by political re-education. There is an intensified atmosphere of fear and tension in Tibet's capital.

In a familiar official response, the Chinese authorities blamed the Dalai Lama for the protests that began on Monday, the 49th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang called the protests "a deliberate political plot of the Dalai Lama group to cause social unrest, separate Tibet from China, and wreck the stable, harmonious, and normal life of the Tibetan people." (Xinhua, March 13).
The Dalai Lama became, and remains, Tibet’s best-known international spokesperson. However, he is 71 years old. China is calculating that international interest in Tibet will wane after he dies.

But the Chinese face a wider range of criticism for its human rights record – both directly in China and indirectly through its dealings with governments of Sudan and Burma among others. Much attention is focused on the Summer Olympics and brought a number of protests from various groups. In fact, the Chinese have now prohibited climbing on the north face of Mount Everest because they plan on having the Olympic torch carried into Tibet from Everest and fear demonstrations.


Paul Hammond said...

What's amazing is that they managed to stage this demonstration at all. I'm expecting some unplanned fireworks at the Olympics this summer.

Excellent reporting, as usual.

Comrade Kevin said...

If you make a blogswarm about this important day, I will post on it and encourage others to do the same.

This is an important issue that does not need to overlooked.