Monday, March 17, 2008
Chinese try brute force; they will fail. Free Tibet will be a reality.
Defying a Chinese government directive not to gather in groups, monks at Tongren in Qinghai Province burned incense on Sunday to protest a crackdown against demonstrations in Tibet.
Chinese riot police officers marched Monday in the city of Kangding, in Sichuan Province. China has blamed a “Dalai clique” for orchestrating protests in Tibet and neighboring provinces.
Beijing begins search and arrest
The Washington Post
Posted online: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 0117 hrs IST
BEIJING, MARCH 17
Vowing a harsh crackdown, Chinese police conducted house-to-house searches in central Lhasa today and rounded up hundreds of Tibetans suspected of participating in a deadly outburst of anti-Chinese violence, exile groups and residents reported.
(Agency reports, quoting activist groups, said at least eight people were killed when police opened fire on a rally led by monks in southwest China amid a wave of anti-Chinese protests outside Tibet. The demonstrations, which have seen attacks on government buildings and police stations, occurred in areas with large ethnic-Tibetan populations. China has prohibited entry of foreigners to Tibet and asked tourists to leave. The regional government of Tibet has suspended handling the application of foreigners for “safety concerns,” a local official said.)
The large-scale arrests and official promises of tough reprisals suggested the Chinese government has decided to move decisively to crush the protests despite calls for restraint from abroad and warnings that heavy-handed repression could taint next summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Tibetan regional governor, Champa Phuntsok, said detainees who show remorse and inform on others who were part of the week-long unrest would be rewarded with better treatment. But Buddhist monks and other Tibetans who participated in Friday’s torching of Chinese-owned shops and widespread attacks on Han Chinese businessmen would be “dealt with harshly,” he told a news conference in Beijing.
In a widely broadcast announcement, the government had given rioters until midnight Monday to turn themselves in, after which they were threatened with arrest. But Urgen Tenzin, executive director of the India-based Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, said he was told by telephone that about 600 Tibetans had been arrested before nightfall by a police sweep that lasted most of the day.
One Han Chinese resident contacted by telephone said a squad of policemen had knocked on the door of his home in Lhasa and demanded to see national identity cards and residence permits for all those inside. A bank officer said police entered his city-center branch and obliged employees one by one to show their national identity cards and respond to questions about their residence and activities.
“We must give them tit for tat and firmly counterattack,” said an editorial in the Communist Party’s official newspaper in Lhasa, the Tibet Daily, in an indication of the government’s determination to crack down hard.
“Ensuring the social stability of the Tibet Autonomous Region is the number one political mission,” the paper said. “It is the priority. We have to take decisive and powerful measures to firmly beat down the enemy’s arrogance and never withdraw our troops without victory... We have to severely punish the criminals who are still beating, robbing and burning, arresting them rapidly and with absolutely no mercy.”
March 18, 2008
Simmering Resentments Led to Tibetan Backlash
By JIM YARDLEY
BEIJING — Chinese leaders have blamed “splittists” led by the exiled Dalai Lama for spurring violent protests in Tibet and orchestrating a public relations sneak attack on the Communist Party, as they gear up to play host to the Olympics Games this summer.
But to many Tibetans and their sympathizers, the weeklong uprising against Chinese rule in Lhasa reflects years of simmering resentment over Beijing’s interference in Buddhist religious rites, its tightened political control and the destruction of the environment across the Himalayan territory the Tibetans consider sacred. If there is a surprise, it may be that Beijing has managed to keep things stable for so long.
Since the last big anti-Chinese riots in Tibet two decades ago, Beijing has sought to smother Tibetan separatism by sparking economic development and by inserting itself into the metaphysics of Tibetan Buddhism. But an influx of Han Chinese to Tibet, and a growing sense among Tibetans that China is irreparably altering their way of life, produced a backlash when Communist Party leaders most needed stability there, analysts say.
“Why did the unrest take off?” asked Liu Junning, a liberal political scientist in Beijing. “I think it has something to do with the long-term policy failure of the central authorities. They failed to earn the respect of the people there.”
Tibetans staged anti-Chinese protests in several parts of China on Monday before a midnight deadline to surrender or face harsh consequences. Even in Beijing, Tibetan students held a sit-in to support demonstrators in Lhasa. Around the world there were sympathy protests outside Chinese diplomatic missions.
The unrest is a blow to President Hu Jintao, who personally directed a crackdown on Tibetan protests in 1989 and who has considered the Tibetan region part of his core political base within the Communist Party since then. It will fall to Mr. Hu to figure out how to restore order in Tibet without undermining the Olympics coming-out party that China has meticulously planned for years.
For now, Beijing’s line on Tibet is likely to harden. Military police officers are pouring in to stifle new protests. Nor are the demonstrations winning much public sympathy in a nation where Tibetans are a tiny minority. The state media has tightly controlled its coverage to focus on Tibetans burning Chinese businesses or attacking and killing Chinese merchants. No mention is made of Tibetan grievances or reports that 80 or more Tibetans have died.
Less than five months before the opening of the Olympics, Beijing is acutely worried about an international reaction and is arguing that its response to the protests has been reasonable. Qiangba Puncog, the taciturn chairman of Tibet’s government, said during a hurriedly convened news conference on Monday that the military police and other officers were not carrying lethal weapons and had not fired a single shot — despite multiple witnesses reporting gunshots.
“What democratic country in the world could tolerate this violent behavior?” Mr. Puncog asked, framing the crisis as a law-and-order issue.
Yet even if the protests are extinguished soon, China’s leaders will be left with a shattered Tibet. One foreigner who witnessed the violence in Lhasa said Tibetans were covering the streets in white toilet paper. Traditionally, Tibetans offer white silk scarves to welcome guests. But the toilet paper was intended to symbolize that the Chinese were no longer welcome — even though there was little possibility they would leave.
Beginning in 2002, China tried to soften its image on Tibet by holding reconciliation talks with emissaries of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama, in turn, has explicitly stated that he is interested only in greater autonomy for Tibet within China, not independence.
But some analysts say Mr. Hu ruled out any compromise that would allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet, which he fled after a failed uprising in 1959. Instead, China appeared to want to keep talking until the Dalai Lama, who is 72, died and left Beijing more firmly in control. Beijing has also infuriated many Tibetans by trying to monopolize the most sacred rituals of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Communist Party, atheistic by doctrine, has insisted that it has the sole authority to approve incarnations — the divine process by which a “living Buddha” is chosen in boyhood. Beijing had already selected a boy as its own Panchen Lama, the second ranking figure in Tibetan Buddhism, and reportedly jailed a boy chosen by the Dalai Lama.
Last November, the Dalai Lama countered with his own surprise. He proposed that instead of waiting for senior religious figures to search out his incarnation following his death, he might choose his own reincarnation — a possibility that has enraged Beijing. The Dalai Lama proposed a referendum among Tibetan Buddhists on whether to change the current reincarnation practice, in a way that could allow him influence in picking his own successor.
Meanwhile, Beijing has steadily been taking a tougher line on religious practices and cultural expressions of Tibetan pride. In November 2005, Zhang Qingli was appointed Communist Party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Mr. Zhang came from the Communist Youth League organization, part of the political stronghold of Mr. Hu. Mr. Zhang has made no attempt to disguise his paternal attitude toward his charges.
“The Communist Party is like the parent to the Tibetan people, and it is always considerate about what the children need,” Mr. Zhang said last year. He later added: “The Central Party Committee is the real Buddha for Tibetans.”
Robert Barnett, a Tibet specialist at Columbia University, said Mr. Zhang had taken a tough line. Tibetan government employees faced periodic requirements to write denunciations of the Dalai Lama. Mr. Zhang reintroduced a policy that forbade Tibetan students and government workers from visiting monasteries or participating in religious ceremonies or festivals.
By 2006, Mr. Zhang had revived an “anti-Dalai” campaign and intensified “patriotic education” at Buddhist monasteries. Monks are now required to attend long sessions listening to recitations of China’s interpretation of Tibetan history and also denounce the Dalai Lama.
“The party must surely know these monks are not going to change their minds” about the Dalai Lama, said Tsering Wangdu Shakya, a Tibet expert at the University of British Columbia. “So the whole point of the meetings is to intimidate the monks.”
Mr. Shakya said Chinese leaders must be stunned by the Lhasa riots because Tibet, under Mr. Zhang’s firm hand, had been thought to be pacified. In 2006, China opened the world’s highest railway, which cost $4.1 billion and traverses the Tibetan plateau to connect isolated Lhasa with the rest of the country. Beijing described the railway as a vital tool in developing the Tibetan economy, the poorest in China.
But many Tibetans regard the railroad as a threat. China has poured money into Tibet in hopes that economic development and higher incomes would win over a younger generation. For many Tibetan families, life has improved. But China has also encouraged huge numbers of Chinese migrants, whose presence has diluted the Tibetan majority.
“That is one of the biggest sources of resentment,” Mr. Shakya said of the Chinese migration. He said Tibetans believed Chinese were given more opportunities for jobs, and Tibetan unemployment is high. Beijing surely noticed that the younger generation it hoped to entice was rampaging on the streets of Lhasa.
Economic development also has brought environmental exploitation. The railway is regarded as a critical spur for China to extract and transport the rich deposits of copper, iron, lead and other minerals in the large unspoiled Tibetan highlands.
Last year, Tibetans in Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan Province held angry protests to stop a mining company that was shearing off a mountain considered sacred by Buddhists. Eleven days ago, just before the Lhasa riots, about 100 monks and other Tibetans attacked Chinese cars and shops and clashed with the police there.
Several analysts say China cannot win the hearts of Tibetans if it continues to demonize the Dalai Lama. But China’s rhetoric about a sinister “Dalai clique” orchestrating the protests from behind the scenes suggests that its attitude is hardening. Mr. Shakya said restricting the flow of Chinese migrants would be a major concession. But few analysts believe Beijing is in any mood to make concessions.
For now, Lhasa will remain in the grip of the military police and soldiers. And, by one account, covered in white toilet paper.
March 18, 2008
China Premier Blames Dalai Lama for ‘Appalling’ Violence in Tibet
By DAVID LAGUE
BEIJING — Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China on Tuesday blamed supporters of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, for planning and inciting what he described as an “appalling” violence and destruction in Tibet last week.
Mr. Wen said at a news conference that the attacks included killings, arson and the ransacking of public and private property and had seriously disrupted the Tibetan regional capital of Lhasa,but that Chinese authorities were capable of restoring order.
Chinese efforts to quell the protests that began in Lhasa and spilled over into neighboring Chinese provinces with sizable populations of ethnic Tibetans over the weekend have overshadowed the proceedings of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. Mr. Wen spoke at their conclusion.
The government actions have also served as a reminder that China employs a huge public security apparatus to contain social and political tension at a time when the governing Communist Party is attempting to portray an image of unity before the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
Mr. Wen said China had evidence that supporters of the Dalai Lama were behind the violence, in contrast to their public calls for peaceful negotiation to solve differences with Beijing.
“Their hypocritical lies can’t cover the ironclad facts,” he said.
The Dalai Lama has called on the Chinese security forces and Tibetan protesters to avoid violence. He has also accused China of conducting a “cultural genocide” in Tibet.
Mr. Wen rejected that assertion and said Beijing would continue to improve the region’s economy and strive to protect Tibetan culture.
On Monday, China raised the death toll from the protests week to 16, but said its security forces had avoided using lethal force, countering Tibetan exile groups that said at least 80 people had been killed.
Scattered protests by ethnic Tibetans continued on Monday in the neighboring Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan, as well as in Gansu. As the paramilitary police and troops were deployed to quash those protests, international pressure mounted on China to show restraint in dealing with dissent.
Demonstrations also reached Beijing, with about 80 students at the Central University for Minorities staging a sit-down protest on the campus late Monday night.
University officials were negotiating with the students, witnesses said, but failed to persuade them to disperse.
Senior Chinese officials seemed anxious on Monday to avoid the appearance of parallels between the Tibetan protests and the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.
Officials said the police and paramilitary police had been called in to deal with the protests, not the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, which led the bloody 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
“The P.L.A. is not involved in the handling of the incidents,” said a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao. “Their entering Tibet now is mainly to handle losses from the incidents.”
Mr. Liu also dismissed reports of casualties from gunfire in Lhasa, the Tibetan regional capital. “The Chinese authorities have not used any lethal weapons in the whole process,” he said.
The clashes in Tibet could undermine China’s efforts to encourage self-governing Taiwan to move toward reunification. In the final days of campaigning before Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday, both major political parties condemned Beijing’s suppression of protests in Tibet.
Chinese officials said Lhasa was quiet on Monday after the biggest antigovernment protests in almost two decades turned violent on Friday.
The government also condemned protests at its embassies abroad, calling them a serious threat to safety, Reuters reported Monday. “We strongly condemn the violent action of Tibet independence activists,” Mr. Liu said.
On Monday, protests took place at the Chinese Embassies in New Delhi and Paris, while another was planned for London.
Earlier, the state news media reported that 10 people had been killed when Tibetans went on a rampage and attacked ethnic Chinese and destroyed their shops and property.
The senior Chinese political leader in Tibet, Qiangba Puncog, said at a news conference in Beijing on Monday that security forces had used only water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters in Lhasa.
He said that 13 of those killed in the protests were “innocent civilians” attacked by a mob.
In addition, three Tibetans died when they jumped from the roof of a building after refusing to surrender to the police, he said.
Mr. Puncog, an ethnic Tibetan, said supporters the Dalai Lama had organized the unrest in an effort to generate publicity during the Olympics.
The Dalai Lama on Sunday accused China of waging “cultural genocide” in Tibet and called for an international inquiry into the suppression of the protests. From the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India, he said that Tibetans had the right to peaceful protest, though he also reiterated that he was not calling for Tibetan independence.
There has been no independent corroboration of either the Chinese or Tibetan exiles’ version of the casualties and damage from the protests in Tibet. The Chinese authorities have barred foreign journalists from Tibet, and access for other foreigners, including tourists, has been “temporarily” suspended, according to government officials.
Images of Lhasa streets broadcast by Hong Kong television over the weekend showed a heavy Chinese military and police presence on streets still covered with debris. The Chinese authorities set a deadline of midnight Monday for those participating in the demonstrations to give themselves up or face severe penalties. There was no sign early Tuesday that the protesters had surrendered.
Journalists and photographers trying to cover the outlying protests said they had been taken into “protective detention” and prevented from approaching those areas.
For China, the unrest in Tibet has drawn unwelcome attention to some of the longstanding tensions in the country as the governing Communist Party is planning a show of unity and harmony during the Olympics.
China says Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries, but Beijing has exerted full control only since 1950, when Communist troops invaded the region.
March 18, 2008
Tibetans in India Enraged by Details of Crackdown
By SOMINI SENGUPTA
DHARAMSALA, India — As Tibet erupted in protests against Chinese rule, this small, normally placid town in the foothills of the Himalayas became a nerve center and soapbox for Tibetan exiles and a vital channel through which news from Tibet seeped out into the world.
Tibetans at home telephoned Tibetans here with snippets of what they saw and heard of the Chinese crackdown last week. Photographs of gory killings, which Buddhist monks said they had received by e-mail from across the border, were displayed in monasteries. Human rights workers played a tape-recorded conversation with a caller who said he had witnessed a massacre.
Dharamsala, long the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and a popular destination for spiritual tourism, has been elevated into the high-energy hub of the Tibetan uprising.
Throughout the day on Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered near the gates of the temple of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, chanting, “We want freedom!”
Their faces painted the blue, red and yellow of the Tibetan flag, they shouted praise for the Dalai Lama and furiously condemned President Hu Jintao of China. “Out, out, out,” they roared, demanding full secession for Tibet, a sharp departure from the Dalai Lama’s calls for autonomy but not independence.
By mid-morning, a group of high school students in forest-green school sweaters had gathered near the temple gates holding a flag of Tibet. One of them, Tsering Dolma, 17, said they had cut class, flouting the principal’s orders and riding a bus 90 minutes through the hills to join the protests here.
“It was the pain in our hearts,” she said in halting English. “We needed to escape.”
Many of the students, including Ms. Dolma, had made an earlier escape, crossing the mountains on foot from Tibet and leaving their parents behind.
One student, Choedak, 18, said he had spoken to his mother, in Lhasa, on Saturday night. “All the streets are smoke and tears,” she told him. “We cannot open our eyes. Every street is like empty.”
Posters for hatha yoga and Tibetan massage (as seen in Lonely Planet tour guides, they boasted) competed for wall space with angry calls for freedom. “The Game’s Over. Free Tibet,” read one ubiquitous sticker, alluding to China’s role as host of the Olympic Games. A banner said, “Stop the Killings in Tibet.”
Down the hill, at the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, calls poured in with accounts of events across the border. Urgen Tenzin, the center’s executive director, recorded a call he received Sunday. The caller described seeing seven people shot dead at a demonstration in front of a Tibetan monastery in Sichuan Province. Callers from Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, reported police officers making house-to-house searches on Sunday evening, and a number of arrests.
Mr. Tenzin’s cellphone trilled and he grabbed his notebook. The call was a secondhand report of a protest breaking out Monday at a medical college in a province outside the Tibet Autonomous Region.
“We are quite helpless,” Mr. Tenzin said. “What we can do except disseminate information?”
In the late afternoon, monks at the Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies monastery disseminated a half-dozen chilling photographs that they said were from Aba in Sichuan Province, a city Tibetans call Ngaba. One photograph showed a tank in the middle of a street, and another showed bodies in the road and a child crouching to get a closer look. The monks said a source in Aba sent the image Monday afternoon by e-mail, somehow circumventing the Chinese government’s latest Internet restrictions.
What followed was a most unusual news conference. The monks telephoned a man who said he was in Aba and let reporters listen as he described soldiers filling the streets of the city and people vowing to resist Beijing’s midnight deadline to end their demonstrations.
The monks would not identify the caller, except to show reporters that they had indeed dialed a number inside China.
By evening, the photographs were plastered across town.
Not all the reports painted a portrait of peaceful protests. On Saturday, Kunchok Jigmey, the secretary of this monastery, received a call from an affiliated monastery, Kirti, in Zoige County, Sichuan, describing how 400 people, including monks, who poured into the streets, shouted, “Long live his holiness, the Dalai Lama,” burned Chinese flags and broke the windows of Chinese-owned shops and restaurants.
Like the other reports, this one could not be independently verified.
Many of the protesters, including young people and members of radical exile groups, openly broke with the Dalai Lama’s advocacy of a “middle way” of freedom but not independence from China. They raised a chorus of stridently anti-Chinese slogans and, before the Dalai Lama spoke to reporters on Sunday, laid Chinese flags on the road, inviting cars and pedestrians to trample on them.
The Dalai Lama, 72, has held talks with Beijing since 2002 and continues to endorse the Olympic Games this summer in China. On Sunday, he said he would not tell his followers to surrender by midnight on Monday, even though he feared that continued protests would prompt further crackdowns by Chinese authorities.
“We, the young people, feel independence is our birthright,” said Dolma Choephel, 34, a social worker active with the Tibetan Youth Congress. “We understand the limitations of the Dalai Lama’s approach.”
The president of the group, Tsewang Rigzin, went further. “There is growing frustration among the younger generation,” he said. “I certainly hope the middle way approach would be reviewed.”
Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama’s government in exile called for an independent international inquiry into the crackdown and urgent assistance for Tibet. It said that at least 80 people had been killed, and that some 400 had been wounded in Lhasa alone. On Monday night, as the deadline approached, hundreds of Tibetans, young and old, gathered in the courtyard of the Dalai Lama’s temple to recite prayers for the dead.
Tenzin Gelek, 25, sat with a candle in hand and said bloodshed was inevitable back home. “I’m sure they will kill many more after midnight tonight,” he said bitterly of the Chinese forces. “We are helpless here.”
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.