Tibet – View from Lhasa

The protest in Tibet began with demonstrations on March 10, 2008 (Tibetan Uprising Day), the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The protests were started by Buddhist monks calling for the release of fellow monks detained in October 2007 as they celebrated the Dalai Lama receiving the United States Congressional Gold Medal on September 27, 2007. Poster of his holiness and the banned Tibetan official flag were seen being carried around by these protesters in the street of Lhasa.

The protest soon turned into a call for independence, rioting, burning and looting as the Chinese troops came in to stop the protesters. Tensions in Lhasa have increased as the city’s three biggest monasteries were sealed off by thousands of soldiers and armed police amid the largest protests in nearly two decades. Due to this outrage, local people also joined the protest, chanting slogans such as ‘Free Tibet’ ‘Long Live the Dalai Lama’ and ‘Free Panchen Lama’. Throughout the protests, the Chinese army used tear gas and electric prods to disperse hundreds of protesters. According to research by The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy committee, more than 120 Tibetans were killed and more than 1000 were injured although the Chinese officials have suggested the death toll to be around 18. Due to the major crackdown in Lhasa, Tibetans over different parts of Tibet also started a protest in their local areas to overthrow the Chinese occupation. Tibetans living in exile over different parts of the world also started peaceful demonstrations in front of Chinese embassies and used other tactics such as started hunger strikes. In Beijing, hundreds of ethnic Tibetan students organized a sit-in protest in solidarity with the protesters in the historic area of Tibet.  The Chinese officials gave the Tibetan protesters in Lhasa a deadline till Monday midnight to surrender themselves or to face the consequences. After the deadline passed, reports were heard that the Chinese troops were doing a house-to-house search in Lhasa and arresting anyone they suspected.

The foreign officials from different parts of the world urged the Chinese officials to deal with the protest in a peaceful way and to stop using force. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour urged the Chinese government to allow protesters to “exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly” and urged the Chinese government to refrain from excessive force. The Chinese officials made it very difficult to access media in Tibet especially in Lhasa.

The Chinese officials have accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the mastermind behind the protest. However, His Holiness has denied the accusation and explained he is no longer seeking independence, but a complete autonomous Tibet under Chinese rule. He also expressed his support for the Beijing Olympics although many Tibetans and many supporters have decided to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also added that he will resign from his post as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile if the violence in Tibet continued to get worse. He also added that if China’s claims about him are true in any way they should prove them to the world. But the Chinese government has not responded to his argument which clearly shows that the Chinese government is trying to spread false propaganda throughout the world. News has also been heard about Chinese troops and police disguising themselves in Tibetan robes as Tibetan monks and inciting violent riots throughout Tibet in order to blame true monks.

Due to this major crackdown in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other parts of Tibet which China claims belong to them, a huge impact has been made on the image of China as a host country for the upcoming Olympic event. The Olympic is hosted to promote peace, friendship and respect among different nations. It is not an event which symbolizes anyone’s right to legitimize its rule over something that doesn’t belong to them. And certainly not an event to exploit basic human rights and torture those who desire to leave in peace. Many athletes and world leaders had already denied taking part in 2008 Beijing Olympic in order to show solidarity with the Tibetans for their cause of struggle and to make China realize that what they are doing is clearly wrong and unjust. The issue of boycotting the Olympics is still an ongoing debate among various world leaders. Now it is in the hands of the Chinese leadership to decide their fate. Do they want a successful game or a controversial one? It’s up to them.


-Tenzin Topchen. (AC 06-08)

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