Sunday, March 16, 2008

Freedom struggle against occupying forces of China, rolls beyond Tibet

Chinese soldiers on an armoured personnel carrier guard a street in Lhasa on Sunday. (Reuters)

After Chinese occupation, Tibet has been broken up and pieces absorbed into three provinces: Quinghai, Gangsu, Sichuan (in addition to the truncated Tibet Autonomous Region)

Issue Date: Monday , March 17 , 2008 (Kolkata, Telegraph)

Riots roll beyond Tibet

March 16: Violence spilled over from Tibet into neighbouring provinces today as Tibetans defied a crackdown and China spoke of a “people’s war” to crush the protest.

Protests were reported in Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces. All are home to Tibetan populations.

The demonstrations came after five days of protests in Lhasa escalated into violence on Friday with Buddhist monks and others torching police cars and shops in the fiercest challenge to Beijing’s rule over the region in two decades.

As the government’s Monday deadline for the protesters to surrender approached, China lapsed into prose laced with customary pyrotechnics.

“We must wage a people’s war to beat splittism and expose and condemn the malicious acts of these hostile forces and expose the hideous face of the Dalai Lama group to the light of day,” political and security chiefs in Tibet were quoted as saying.

The details emerging from witness accounts and government statements suggested Beijing was preparing a methodical campaign — one that if carefully modulated would minimise bloodshed and avoid wrecking Beijing’s grand plans for the Olympics.

The calculated mix of threats and inducements underscored the difficulties the communist leadership faces in trying to quell a serious challenge to its 57-year rule in Tibet.

Supporters of the Dalai Lama said 80 people had been killed during the protests in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and at least another 72 injured.

The violence erupted just two weeks before China’s Olympic celebrations kick off with the start of the torch relay, which will pass through Tibet. The Games are scheduled to be held in August.

A resident of Aba county in Sichuan, who refused to give his name, said there was a clash between Tibetan monks and armed police. He said one policeman had been killed and three or four police vans had been set on fire.

“They (the protesters) have gone crazy,” said a police officer in Aba county, her voice trembling down the telephone. The officer, who declined to be named, said a crowd of Tibetans hurled petrol bombs, burning down a police station and a market in the county’s main town, and set fire to two police cars and a fire truck.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said at least seven people have been fatally shot in the county. There was no way of immediately confirming the claim.

In Qinghai, 100 monks defied a directive confining them to Rongwo Monastery by climbing a hill behind it, where they set off fireworks.

The act raised tensions. Businesses were shuttered and about 30 riot policemen with shields took up posts near the monastery. Police forced journalists to delete photographs of the riot squads. In Gansu, over 100 students protested at a university in Lanzhou.

Hong Kong Cable TV said about 200 military vehicles, each carrying dozens of armed soldiers, drove into the centre of Lhasa today.

China suspended foreign travel permits to Tibet out of “safety concerns”.

(Written with agency reports)

From the Los Angeles Times

China cracks down in Tibet and beyond as protests spread

Chinese police pour into Lhasa and outlying areas as China scrambles to control the latest uprisings. Sympathy demonstrations are reported around the world.
By Mark Magnier

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 16, 2008

XIAHE, CHINA — The spread of protests from Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, to neighboring communities and now Gansu province represents a crisis for a government eager to project an image of friendly confidence and cultural refinement in advance of the Beijing Olympics.

On Saturday, a massive police presence could be seen blanketing Xiahe, a holy city outside Tibet that houses the sprawling Labrang Monastery complex, one of the most revered in Tibetan Buddhism.

By early today, the cordon in Xiahe had tightened further as English-speaking police were stopping all vehicles for miles and forcing foreigners to turn around or, if they were on local transportation, to climb down.

This followed demonstrations involving an attack on a police station by thousands of people and the raising of a banned national Tibetan flag.

Twenty people were arrested in the ensuing violence, the London-based Free Tibet Campaign said, and a local official said seven people were injured, as authorities scrambled to quell the worst protests against Chinese dominion over Tibet in two decades.

The crackdown followed efforts by authorities in Lhasa to contain six days of violence. "They are in the process of restoring order, but it is not complete," a Western aid worker living in Lhasa said.

The government has reported 10 deaths in Lhasa resulting from the protests, which it blamed on rioters setting fires. The self-proclaimed Tibetan government-in-exile, based in India, said the figure was 30, and other estimates ran higher.

Lhasa residents reached by phone said the city was under a near state of emergency with people afraid to go out.

Late Saturday, there were still small signs of rebellion in Xiahe. As undercover police prowled through crowds of pilgrims bedecked in traditional Tibetan clothing, a monk in a bright purple robe looked around to make sure no one was watching. Then he smiled defiantly and raised his fist.

Although the police presence in Xiahe was designed to intimidate residents, it also suggested how worried and insecure Beijing is at the prospect of losing control, analysts said.

"The fact that it's now happening at the far reaches of Tibet must be very serious for the authorities," said Robert Barnett, a professor at Columbia University. "It does seem like we're entering a new chapter. . . . This sounds like a real political challenge to the government."

The latest unrest was sparked Monday, when 300 monks in Lhasa urged Beijing to release several imprisoned colleagues on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. Protests then spread to other monasteries around Lhasa, then farther afield. On Saturday, sympathy demonstrations were reported in Australia, India and Nepal against Chinese embassies.

The rolling protests underscore the shortcomings of a ruling strategy based on fear, intimidation and tight control over Tibetan culture and religion, some analysts and rights groups said, which has failed to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans in the half-century since China annexed the region.

The unrest in Xiahe reportedly started Saturday morning after several hundred monks marched out of the Labrang Monastery, gathering supporters along the way for what was initially a ceremony of chanting and incense-burning.

By midafternoon, roadblocks were turning back all cars on the main road to the Labrang temple. Convoys of police cars patrolled a smaller road on the edge of town.

Farther down the steep valley lined with scrubby brown vegetation and small patches of ice, a convoy of military police raced toward Xiahe as two fire engines with water cannons rumbled in their wake followed by 15 large army trucks.

"There has been great trouble yesterday and today," said the monk in the purple robe, who declined to identify himself for fear of retribution.

"It's been bad," said a robed colleague, crossing his arms on his chest. "Four people were shot."

As with many reports in recent days, his claim could not be independently verified. An official at the Xiahe County People's Hospital said Saturday that seven people were injured in the morning rampage, which he blamed on the monks.

Others blamed authorities. "The police were extreme," said a businessman who shares his time between Xiahe and Lhasa, declining to identify himself for fear of retaliation. "I was on the spot, and it was two hours of chaos."

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, an activist group, citing sources, said police and paramilitary forces fired tear gas and live ammunition into the air in a bid to disperse the crowd.

Even as Beijing has tried to block information about the last six days of unrest through telephone taps, Internet filtering and travel restrictions, it is being frustrated by some of the very advances it is promoting.

Along both sides of the road leading up to Xiahe from the capital city of Lanzhou, the mud walls of impoverished ethnic Tibetan villages are lined with giant hand-painted advertisements for cellphone and Internet services offered by state-owned companies. This proliferation of communication devices has made it far easier for Tibetans to share with the world details of this crackdown than during previous rounds.

"Protests have taken place in Tibet for years, but they're only now getting reported," said Tsering Tashi, London-based representative of the Dalai Lama with the Office of Tibet. "That's thanks to modern technology."

As Chinese society becomes more dynamic, this leak-prone environment has also forced the state to disclose negative news in something closer to real time or risk losing credibility with its own citizens.

The official New China News Agency released its report Saturday that 10 people burned to death during Friday's protests in Lhasa.

Temples, hospitals and schools are under military control, said the owner of a hotel near the Potala Palace who gave only her last name, Sima. Most of the shops along the city's main Beijing Central Road were damaged, she added, after Tibetans attacked Chinese-owned stores.

Lawbreakers involved in Friday's Lhasa rampage who turn themselves in by Tuesday and inform on other wrongdoers will be treated lightly, the official New China News Agency reported Saturday.

China has been quick to blame the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, whom it has labeled a "splittist." Champa Phuntsok, chairman of the Tibetan government, told reporters Saturday in Beijing that the Dalai Lama, 72, orchestrated the unrest from abroad. "This plot is doomed to failure," he said.

Since 1709, the Labrang Monastery complex here has housed generations of living Buddhas, the third most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

The city saw its last crackdown in October, when police were called in to quell a celebration after the Dalai Lama was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in Washington.

China has tried to wrest spiritual control from Dalai Lama loyalists by naming its own Panchen Lama after the Dalai Lama's choice went missing. Beijing has denied placing him under house arrest.

It also issued an order in August that any so-called living Buddha who tries to reincarnate "without government approval" is illegal and invalid.

"All these games are not going to help them in the long run," Tashi said. "China is not able to win over the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people."

Times staff writer Barbara Demick in the Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.,0,5729859.story

Read BBC story:

France asks China to respect human rights in Tibet
(Releads with statement from foreign ministry, detail)

PARIS, March 16 (Reuters) - France called on China to respect human rights on Sunday as scuffles broke out in front of the country's embassy in Paris during a demonstration against China's crackdown on protests in Tibet.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said France was monitoring the situation in Tibet "with close attention with our European partners".

"With the approach of the Olympic Games, which ought to be a great show of fraternity, France would like to draw the attention of the Chinese authorities to the importance of respecting human rights," said the statement.

Earlier in the day, around 500 pro-Tibetan supporters had gathered by the Chinese embassy on Paris's chic avenue George V.

French riot police used tear gas to disperse members of the crowd, but there were no serious injuries. Some 10 protesters were taken away.

Protesters held up banners with slogans such as "I Am With The Dalai Lama" and "China's Lying, Tibetans Are Dying."

At one point, a demonstrator climbed onto the first floor balcony of the embassy to take down the Chinese flag and replace it with the Tibetan one.

For more on the riots in Tibet, see [ID:nPEK272548].
(Reporting by Alain Ricci, Brigitte Malho, Sudip Kar-Gupta),,-7389729,00.html

Pressure mounts for West to act on Tibet talk
By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - Strife in Tibet has raised pressure on the Dalai Lama's many admirers worldwide to translate moral support into helpful action, but the trick is finding ways to exert more than marginal influence on China.
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, called on Sunday for an international investigation as Tibetan rioting against Chinese rule spread to provinces outside the Himalayan region. Tibetan exiles said 80 people had been killed.
China's crackdown on the fiercest display of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule in 20 years has drawn calls for restraint from the United States and other governments.
So far, moral support is all that has been offered to the Dalai Lama, who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the admiration of millions around the world, including major political, religious and entertainment figures.
"China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and they are an economic powerhouse. There are only a couple of ways we can exert pressure," said T. Kumar, Asia advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.
"The person who can make a difference at this moment is President Bush."
Kumar noted that, as of Sunday, the White House had issued statements but the U.S. president had not spoken publicly about the bloodshed in Tibet.
He said Washington should "take the lead" and call for an outside fact-finding mission to Tibet to assess the problem.
Bush plans to attend the Beijing Olympics in August but has resisted calls to raise in public issues such as China's support for Sudan, despite what Washington says is genocide in the Darfur region, saying he can talk privately with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Talk of a boycott of the Beijing Olympics has surfaced in some circles but it is not an official policy of any government or major human rights organization.
A frustrated Richard Gere told Reuters on Friday that he had not previously supported a boycott but believed the world should stay away if China mishandles the unrest. He urged U.S. leaders to act on past gestures of support for Tibetans.
"It's really up to us to be leaders of this, and if we are to take the president at his word, if we are to take our Congress at its word, these are meaningful things," said the actor, a close follower of the Dalai Lama and chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet.
The Dalai Lama says China deserves to host the Olympic Games. Analysts say the Western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics -- a boycott China joined -- did not moderate the behavior of the Soviet Union.
"I just don't think a boycott -- for any reason, be it Tibet or Darfur -- will have any of the effect that people who support those issues want," said Joshua Kurlantzick, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who has written widely about China's growing international influence.
China is now such a huge factor on the world stage -- courted for everything from fighting global warming to trying to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of dangerous regimes -- that snubbing Beijing would spark anger and nationalism that the West would regret for a long time, some analysts say.
Days before the eruption of violence in Lhasa, the conservative Heritage Foundation gathered experts for a panel discussion on "Tibet's Future: Does It Have One?"
Tibetan Buddhism scholar Robert Thurman told the seminar China was "hypersensitive" about outside criticism of its Tibet policies because "they have about the same level of legitimacy as our occupation of Iraq, which is none."
The metaphor of China as an "anaconda in the chandelier" -- coined by a U.S. scholar to describe how the Communist Party silences Chinese people merely with unspoken threats -- can be extended to China's dealings with the outside world, he said.
"The reason that it's very hard to raise the issue of Tibet in any place anywhere in the world is that China works very hard to suppress any mention of Tibet," said Thurman.
Kumar of Amnesty International said doing nothing now could impose a high cost on Tibetans or others later.
"If the Chinese feel comfortable using this brutal force only five months before the Olympics, you can imagine how its going to happen later," he said. (Editing by John O'Callaghan),,-7390025,00.html

IOC wants peaceful resolution to Tibet tensions
(Adds EU comment, paragraphs 8-9)
By Nick Mulvenney
BEIJING, March 16 (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee called for a peaceful resolution to the unrest in the Himalayan region of Tibet, which threatens to derail China's hopes for a smooth run-up to August's Beijing Olympic Games.
Tensions remained high in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Sunday as police and troops locked down the city where street protests against Chinese rule turned violent two days earlier.
The protests, which the region's exiled leaders said resulted in 80 deaths, look set to overshadow the build-up to the Aug. 8-24 Games, which China was hoping would be a display of the country's unity and prosperity.
"The International Olympic Committee (IOC) shares the world's desire for a peaceful resolution to the tensions of past days in the Tibetan region of China," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies. "We hope that calm can return to the region as quickly as possible."
The Olympic movement is no stranger to calls for boycotts of its four-yearly Summer showpiece. China's policy on Sudan and the war-torn region of Darfur have already brought calls from activists for athletes to stay away from Beijing.
Hollywood actor Richard Gere, chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, said on Friday that his personal view was that it would be "unconscionable" to attend the Beijing Games if China failed to deal peacefully with the unrest in Tibet.
But on Sunday, the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, said the Games should not be called off, even if the international community had a "moral responsibility" to remind China to be a good host.
European Union Sports Commissioner Jan Figel told Reuters before a meeting on Monday of the bloc's sports ministers and IOC members in Slovenia:
"The Olympics should be used as a way of engaging with China. I don't support a boycott."
Beijing Organisers on Saturday said they thought the unrest would not disrupt plans to take the Olympic flame to the Himalayan region in May and June.
The torch relay for the Beijing Olympics, which starts on March 24, includes an attempt to take the flame up Mount Everest from Tibet in early May.
Tibet also forms part of the domestic leg of the relay, taking in Shannan Diqu on June 19 and Lhasa on the following two days.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi earlier this week attacked critics of China, accusing them of violating the Olympic Games charter keeping politics away from sports and saying their efforts were doomed to failure.
China has ruled Tibet since its troops marched in to take control in 1950.
(Take a look at the Countdown to Beijing blog at (Additional reporting by Darren Ennis in Brussels; Editing by Charles Dick),,-7389466,00.html

March 15, 2008

China faces crisis as world leaders call for restraint

Protesters throw stones at military trucks in Lhasa during the riots today
Image :1 of 5

Jane Macartney and Catherine Philp
China faced one of its most serious political crises in two decades as Tibetans resentful of Beijing rule set fire to swaths of Lhasa. The army responded by sending armed personnel carriers onto the streets.

Angry Tibetans attacked ethnic Han Chinese and gunshots echoed in the streets as security forces tried to restore order. Bodies were seen lying in the streets.

The anti-Chinese unrest, which has spread beyond Lhasa to far-flung Tibetan monasteries beyond the region’s borders, is precisely what China wants to avoid as it seeks to present a stable and prosperous face to the world for the Olympics in August.

The People’s Liberation Army sent armoured personnel carriers and troops into the streets of Lhasa to curb running battles between angry young Tibetans and ethnic Han. From his home in exile in India, the Dalai Lama called on Beijing not to use brute force to quash the demonstrations.

Witnesses said they saw six bodies in the streets tonight, although this could not be independently confirmed.

In the Barkhor market that winds around the Jokhang temple, Tibet’s holiest site, they reported the bodies of two Tibetan men and two Tibetan women. The body of a Tibetan man was seen in the Lugu district and a Tibetan woman lay dead on Qingnian Road, near the city centre. They said all appeared to have been shot but no monks were seen among the dead.

Many ethnic Han Chinese, a minority in Tibet, were wounded in attacks by Tibetans hurling rocks and bricks as they vented their anger against Beijing rule. Residents said a number of Han had been killed but no figures were available as the city was engulfed in chaos.

One Han Chinese was stabbed by a Tibetan directly in front of the institute of traditional Tibetan medicine, a witness said. The Lhasa Municipal People’s Hospital said nine of the wounded were receiving treatment for injuries ranging from stab wounds to head injuries.

One nurse said: “We have given people stitches and others have been bandaged. Most of the injured were Han Chinese.” Long after night fell, fires blazed across the city as mobs of angry young Tibetans set light to shops and cars owned by Han Chinese. “There is smoke everywhere still, even this late at night,” said one resident.

The upsurge of violence follows four days of demonstrations by lamas from monasteries around the Tibetan capital demanding greater freedom of religion before the Olympic Games as well as independence for the deeply Buddhist Himalayan region and the return of the Dalai Lama.

The violence escalated at around 11am when monks from the 7th century Ramoche monastery staged a demonstration. Police tried to stop the lamas from racing onto the streets of Lhasa and a police car posted outside the monastery gate was set on fire as hundreds of Tibetans then rallied around the monks.

One resident of the old city near the monastery told The Times: “It’s very dangerous. Tibetans are fighting the Han people in the street outside. I can’t talk because I’m afraid.” Residents said the police withdrew from the city centre as the violence escalated.

People’s Liberation Army troops moved in at around 6pm, to be greeted with cheers by Han Chinese and ethnic Hui Muslim residents. “Long Live the Communist Party,” they shouted. “You should have come sooner.”

But the military patrols firing teargas and bullets had failed to restore order late tonight.

Rampaging mobs who earlier in the day set alight to the sprawling, concrete Tromsikhang market, built in 1993, had disappeared.

But young Tibetan men and women were hiding in houses and doorways, waiting to dart out to hurl rocks and set fires to shops as soon as each army cavalcade had passed, witnesses said.

One said: “People have been bottling up their anger for 20 years, but now those feelings have exploded.”

Military trucks equipped with loudspeakers circled the city, ordering people to return to their homes and warning: “You must bear the consequences.”

Lhasa radio and television repeatedly broadcast a statement in Tibetan and Chinese from the city government that accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the violence and warned people not to take part.

The broadcast said: “This small number of rioters is supported by the Dalai clique. All officials and people must listen to the Government and unite to form a stable and harmonious society. We must value this precious harmony and must struggle against the splittists until the end.”

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile during a failed uprising against Chinese rule that erupted on March 10, 1959, urged all sides to exercise restraint, but described the demonstrations as a manifestation of deep-rooted resentment among the Tibetan people.

He said: “These protests are a manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people under the present governance. I therefore appeal to the Chinese leadership to stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people.”

Britain, the European Union and the United States joined the calls for restraint. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said: “There are probably two important messages to go out - one is the need for restraint on all sides and secondly that substantive dialogue is the only way forward.”

Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, urged respect for human rights. He said: “There is strong condemnation, coming from all the European Council and the 27 countries.”

The United States told China to act with restraint when dealing with protesters in Tibet and again asked Beijing to talk to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

News of the unrest had spread quickly across the Himalayan plateau. Some 200 nuns and 10 monks from Qushuixian county near Lhasa began to march towards the city in the late afternoon but were turned back halfway. Local villagers who tried to join the demonstration were also stopped and ordered to return home.

Buddhist monks have launched a hunger strike to demand paramilitary police release fellow lamas arrested earlier in the week when hundreds took to the streets in the largest protests seen in the restive region since 1989. Two have attempted suicide in protest.

In March 1989, thousands of Tibetans rioted in the streets of Lhasa, setting fire to shops and causing widespread damage in a rampage that prompted the government to impose martial law.

Tibet has been seen periodic outbreaks of anti-Chinese unrest since Chairman Mao’s troops entered the region in 1950. Nine years later, Tibetans staged a failed uprising against Beijing rule and the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India. Tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed.

No comments: