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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Rapid reforms could have led to riots in Tibet

July 18, 2008

By Indo-Asian News Service on Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beijing/Lhasa, July 17 (IANS) China’s rapid economic reforms could have
been one of the main reasons for the violent riots in Tibet in March in
which Buddhist monks played a major role, a senior Chinese official has

The frank admission is perhaps the first of its kind by Chinese rulers
who are yet to get over the shock of what they - and the world -
witnessed in Tibet.

“In my view, the reforms moved at such a fast pace that it surpassed the
people,” Dong Yunhu, director general of the state council information
office, told a group of Indian journalists. The official stressed that
ways and means should be found to ensure that the marginalized monks
were part of Tibet’s development in future.

Beijing and also the authorities in Tibet claim to have spent billions
of dollars on the development of the region in recent decades.

The Chinese official admitted that what happened in Tibet was bothering
many people in the country and was being debated by the Chinese
leadership. The “violent protests” of March 14 left 18 people dead,
injured more than 800 and destroyed shops and buildings worth millions
of dollars.

The unrest raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the
Chinese government’s Tibet policy.

“This question is being asked by many people, and it’s very difficult to
answer,” Dong admitted.

A visit to Lhasa showed that though the Tibetan capital was limping back
to normalcy, there was tension in the air.

Few on the streets wanted to speak about the riots that ravaged the
city. Those who spoke in private feared there could be instability if
more violence erupts.

In some monasteries, senior monks tried their best to dissociate
themselves from the protests and put the blame on those who had come
there from outside to study.

“Our job is to pursue Buddhist teachings and spend time on
self-cultivation,” a senior monk at the Sere monastery in Lhasa said.

A number of monks from Sere had taken part in the demonstrations but
most were dubbed “outsiders” who had scant regard for the law.

Baima Chilin, the vice chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, was
reluctant to talk about what led to the March 14 riots.

Instead, Chilin shot back: “How many schools were built before 1959
(when the Dalai Lama fled to India)? And what development did the Dalai
Lama undertake when he was here?”

He was asked whether the riots in Lhasa showed a failure in the current
Chinese policy being pursued in Tibet.

But the state council information office in Beijing was not evasive.

Dong argued that though serfdom was abolished in Tibet in 1959 and
people opted for a People’s Republic, some remnants of the “old system”
could have continued there.

“Why did so many Lamas take part in the protests?” he asked. According
to him, the reason for this was because many of the lamas once at the
centre of power felt marginalized under the new system.

“The reshuffling of interests could have created the imbalance in
Tibet,” Dong added.

He pointed out that the need was to strike a balance between reforms and
stability since many people may feel somewhat tired with the pace of

“There is no doubt that everybody should get a share of the development.
That is why we are talking of building a harmonious society. To protect
social justice is a big challenge for China.”

(Pranay Sharma can be contacted at
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