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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."

Chinese profits will soon make the world forget Tibet

March 31, 2008

By Warren W. Smith
Commentary by
The Daily Star - Lebanon
Saturday, March 29, 2008

On March 14, the otherworldly calm of Lhasa, Tibet's holy city, was
shattered by riots and gunfire. The spark that triggered unrest in the
Tibetan part of what is now a largely ethnic Han Chinese city is
unclear, but occurred somewhere near the Ramoche Temple when Chinese
security forces attempted to stop a demonstration by monks.

Whatever the details, only a spark was needed to set off the most
serious disturbances in Tibet since the riots of 1987-1989, or perhaps
since the Tibetan Revolt of March 1959, which sent the Dalai Lama into
exile. It was the 49th anniversary of that revolt, on March 10, that led
monks from two large monasteries near Lhasa to stage demonstrations, in
which many of them were arrested, raising tensions in the city.

While denying much of what subsequently happened, Chinese officials did
reveal the scale of the riots: 422 Chinese-owned shops partially or
completely burned; more than 200 million yuan ($28 million) in damage;
325 people injured, and 13 killed - all of them Han Chinese. China
admitted to no deaths among the Tibetan protesters, claiming that its
security forces had exercised restraint and had not even fired a single
shot.

This contradicted Tibetan reports of dozens of deaths, perhaps as many
as 100, and accounts of foreign tourists Peter-MacIntosh-Geisha-Expert
who said they heard shots and saw the bodies of Tibetans gunned down by
the security forces. China claimed that the "Dalai Clique" had
"organized, premeditated, and carefully engineered and instigated"
incidents of "beating, smashing, looting, and burning," in an attempt to
use the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing to publicize his cause of
Tibetan independence. But the only evidence China offered was
international Tibetan support groups' statements that they intended to
demonstrate at events associated with the Olympics.

The claim that force had not been used came from the Tibetan head of the
supposedly autonomous government of Tibet, Jampa Phuntsok, who was in
Beijing at the time for a meeting of China's National People's Congress.
Significantly, he remained in Beijing, while the Han Chinese head of the
Communist Party in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, returned to handle the situation.

Phuntsok also claimed that the People's Liberation Army had not been
used to put down the riot - a sensitive issue because China does not
like to admit that the PLA is used internally, as it was during the 1989
Tiananmen massacre. He said that only the Public Security Police and
People's Armed Police had been used. However, foreign military experts
observed that the type of armored vehicles used in Lhasa and shown on
film were of the type issued only to elite PLA units, though their PLA
markings were obscured.

In the aftermath of the Lhasa riots, similar disturbances occurred
across the Tibetan Plateau, now divided into the Tibet Autonomous Region
and several autonomous districts in the neighboring provinces of
Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan. More Tibetan deaths were reported,
with China admitting that in some of these instances its security forces
had opened fire "in self-defense." Chinese security forces then began to
move into all Tibetan areas in large numbers.

China unleashed a barrage of propaganda claiming that the world should
condemn the Dalai Lama, not China, for instigating the riots, and that
only innocent Chinese had suffered. But the evidence suggests that the
riots in Lhasa and elsewhere were an expression of Tibetan frustration
at years of Chinese control and repression.

The situation is unlikely to improve. On the contrary, China now reports
that it is rounding up "criminals" across Tibet and will "re-educate"
them about their misguided beliefs in Tibetan freedom and independence.
World leaders have called on China to exercise restraint and begin a
dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Neither is likely.

World leaders seem inclined against a boycott of August's Olympic Games,
or even of the opening ceremonies, which will highlight China's policies
aimed at a "harmonious society and harmonious world," and will certainly
feature performances by happy national minorities, including Tibetans.
As in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the world appears
to prefer good economic and diplomatic relations with China over all else.

Warren W. Smith, a broadcaster with the Tibetan Service of Radio Free
Asia, is the author of "Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism
and Sino-Tibetan Relations" and co-author of the 1997 International
Commission of Jurists report "Tibet: Human Rights and the Rule of Law."
THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project
Syndicate (c) (www.project-syndicate.org).
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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