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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."

Trouble in Tibet - China's repression produces a backlash

March 16, 2008

Washington Post editorial
Saturday, March 15, 2008; Page A12

CHINA HAS BEEN planning carefully to prevent "unharmonious" elements
from sullying its pristine 2008 Olympic Games. It has cracked down on
dissidents all over China, and it has even closed off access to Mount
Everest to prevent disruption of the Olympic torch relay. Despite all
these measures, protests erupted across Tibet this week.

On Monday, the 49th anniversary of an unsuccessful uprising against
China, hundreds of Tibetan monks began marching into Lhasa and were
stopped by police. A second protest the next day devolved into chaos
when police reportedly used tear gas to disperse the crowd, and since
then laypeople have joined the movement and turned violent. The violence
escalated yesterday, with dozens of wounded flooding into hospitals.

Historically, China has not been terribly hesitant to use force in
quelling protests, particularly protests advocating Tibetan "splittism."
In the first few days, Chinese police appeared to be restraining
themselves, perhaps aware that the world was watching, but since then
there have been reports of gunfire and mass arrests. Anywhere between a
handful and a hundred Tibetans have been reported killed.

These are the largest protests in two decades, and they are part of a
greater narrative of repression of the Tibetan people. For decades the
Chinese government has afforded the "Tibet Autonomous Region" little in
the way of autonomy, and it has punished monks and laypeople for
devotion to their exiled religious leader, the Dalai Lama. After decades
of repression, monks and other Tibetans have chosen to seize the moment.
They, like others with grievances against China for its human rights
policies, realize that these few months ahead of the Olympics present
their best chance to gain the world's interest.

In light of the violence of the past few days, several governments --
including that of the United States -- have asked China to show
restraint. The Dalai Lama has issued a similar statement that also
exhorted Tibetans to refrain from violence. The international community
should continue to urge China to talk with the Tibetan leader, who in
recent years has acknowledged Chinese rule and asked only for greater
cultural independence for his people. World leaders should also urge
China to follow its constitution, which requires freedom of speech and
religion, as well as self-rule for ethnic minorities. It is, after all,
the lack of these rights in practice that is pushing resentful Tibetans
into extremism.
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