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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Brute force won't work

March 19, 2008

Claude Arpi
The Pioneer
March 18, 2008

The Chinese Government and the CPC can try to suppress dissent in Tibet,
but they will fail to silence the cry for freedom

Several years ago, I recorded the memoirs of some old Tibetan officials
who had witnessed independent Tibet before 1950. Among them was
Kundeling, who had dutifully served the Dalai Lama's Government in Tibet
and later in exile. After spending several hours remembering a Tibet
which no longer exists, the dignified old man told me about his return
to Tibet in 1984. He headed the Fourth Fact-finding Delegation sent by
the Dalai Lama to investigate the changes wrought on the 'Roof of the
World' by what the CPC called the "Liberation of Tibet".

The rapprochement process between Beijing and Dharamsala started in 1979
when Deng Xiaoping, who had come to the helm in Beijing after Mao's
death, called Gyalo Dhondup, the Dalai Lama's brother, and told him that
he was ready to discuss everything except Tibet's independence. This
meeting was followed by the setting up of four fact-finding delegations
that visited Lhasa and several remote places in Tibet between 1979 and 1984.

Kundeling recalled the circumstances around his visit to Tibet. Before
the First Delegation's arrival in Lhasa, the Chinese authorities were
under the impression that they had 'liberated' Tibet or at least
'pacified' it. They truly believed that the people were immensely
grateful to the Communist Party of China for having brought the
'revolution' to the 'Land of Snows'. The local authorities briefed the
Tibetan population in Lhasa and everywhere in Tibet that the Dalai
Lama's delegates would soon be visiting them. They instructed the
people: "You should not resent this visit. You should not insult the
delegates. You should not spit on them. Just receive them as your own

It did not turn out this way. Kundeling explained, "When the first three
delegations went to Tibet (between 1979 and 1982), there were riots
(wherever they went); the Tibetans tried even to tear the chubas
(Tibetan dress) of the delegates to keep them as relics." The entire
Lhasa population was in the streets; everybody wanted a darshan of the
Dalai Lama's envoys. They received a reception worthy of the highest
reincarnated lamas.

By the time the Kundeling delegation - the fourth one - reached Tibet in
1984, the Communist authorities had learnt their lesson. Spies
infiltrated the crowds everywhere. "At first Tibetans came forward to
speak to us. But one discovered that some of the Chinese dressed in the
Tibetan chuba, were spying (on us) with a small walkman in the chuba
sleeves. People became nervous; they knew they were being taped and
would be interrogated later. When the word spread that this was
happening, people became more cautious."

The Tibetans, however, found a way to get around the tricky situation:
"Because we were sent by His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) to get something
touched by us was a blessing... when our cars would leave, the Tibetans
would collect the soil out of the prints of the tyres of our cars and
keep it as prasad to eat or preserve it."

This anecdote shows that the Chinese Communist regime has never been
able to understand the aspirations of the Tibetan people and their deep
resentment against Chinese colonial rule. The incident occurred after 30
years of 'liberation'. In a different way, the same thing is happening
today in Lhasa and several places of Tibet where the most serious riots
since 1989 erupted on March 10.

During the recent 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative
Conference held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, President Hu
Jintao met a few 'Tibetan' delegates and told them: "Tibet's stability
has to do with the entire country's stability, Tibet's safety has to do
with the entire country's safety."

More worrisome for Tibetans, Mr Hu Jinato told the delegates that the
party "fully trusts" the Han Chinese cadre in Tibet. The party will
continue to "tremendously support their work and warmly care about their
lives". Analysts read in his words of praise for the hard work of the
Han cadre in Tibet, a sign that Tibetans will not be given any say in
their own affairs. The genuine autonomy demanded by the Dalai Lama is
still decades away.

That is precisely the problem: Tibetans do not have a say in their
lives, or their future in today's Tibet. With the arrival of the railway
line (3.8 million Chinese travelled by train to Lhasa last year) and the
influx of new Han settlers, the resentment has increased.

Though the reports of the riots are sketchy, Chinese sources speak of "a
tumultuous day (March 14) that saw windows smashed, shops robbed, a
mosque burnt down and reportedly many casualties." China's official news
agency, Xinhua, reported: "Witnesses said the unrest started around 1:10
pm on Friday, several people clashed with and stoned the local police
around Ramogia Monastery in downtown Lhasa."

Ramogia Monastery was earlier called Ramoche Monastery. However, the
Chinese have used their own phonetic spellings to Sinicise Tibetan
names: 'Ramoche' thus became 'Ramogia'. Each and every old colonial
trick is being used in Tibet today; even Lhasa time is Beijing Standard
Time. Lord Macaulay would have had to admit that the Chinese are far
superior to the British in forcing their 'culture' on indigenous people.

Trouble started on March 10 when 300 monks from Drepung Monastery, near
Lhasa started a peaceful protest march towards Barkhor Street in central
Lhasa. A few monks were arrested by Public Security Bureau officials and
a large deployment of force was immediately seen around Drepung Monastery.

People's Armed Police personnel, including plain-clothed police, were
reportedly present around Central Cathedral in Lhasa. The next day, Sera
Monastery got involved in peaceful demonstrations. Again, some monks
were arrested, and severely beaten and manhandled by PSB officials.

The following day, about 2,000 Chinese troops fired teargas to disperse
hundreds of Sera Monastery monks, calling for the release of their
fellow monks while shouting pro-Tibet slogans. The situation further
deteriorated in the following days with the use of brutal force against
the demonstrators.

Beijing immediately put the blame on the Dalai Lama. A Government
official in Lhasa told Xinhua that there was evidence to prove that the
"sabotage" in Lhasa was "organised, premeditated and masterminded" by
the Dalai Lama clique. Xinhua admitted that the authorities "were forced
to use a limited amount of teargas and fired warning shots to disperse
the desperate crowds".

The 'limited' use of force mentioned by the Chinese Government
nevertheless took the lives of 16 people, according to Chinese sources.
The Dalai Lama has spoken of at least 100 dead.

According to the Dalai Lama, "These protests are a manifestation of the
deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people under the present
governance." He said that "unity and stability under brute force is at
best a temporary solution. Force is not conducive to finding a peaceful
and lasting solution." While urging his fellow Tibetans not to resort to
violence, he said that "the protest in Lhasa is borne out of China
carrying out a sort of cultural genocide in Tibet, intentionally or

Today, like 24 years ago at the time of Kundeling's visit (or later
during the 1987 and 1989 demonstrations), the problem is that China
prefers to ignore the aspirations of Tibetans and the need for a larger
say in their own affairs.

Unless, Mr Hu Jintao and his colleagues understand this, the Tibet issue
will remain alive.
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