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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Trouble Ahead for Tibet?

June 10, 2008

Simon Elegant (China Blog)
TIME Magazine
June 6, 2008

Beijing announced yesterday that talks between representatives of the
exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama and senior Chinese officials
were to be postponed until later this month. It was a another bad
omen in a situation that looks increasingly grim. Conditions on the
ground are still very tense. Beijing also announced that it had
arrested 16 Tibetans, mostly monks. for carrying out three bombings
in Tibet in April. Meanwhile the Dalai Lama himself has expressed
apprehension that there could be further protests in Tibet and its
neighboring ethnically Tibetan areas of China proper in coming weeks.
The Chinese authorities seem to make the same judgment: a colleague
traveling in the province of Gansu noted that the military presence
was very heavy and visible, considerably more than in the past,
presumably an attempt to head off trouble. Nearly three months after
the initial protests, foreign reporters still can't enter Tibet, most
likely a sign that the situation is still not even close to being
stabilized. A possible flash point could be when the Olympic Torch
passes through Tibet later this month. The International Olympic
Committee is closing a meeting in Athens today at which activists
have been protesting in an attempt to get the IOC to cancel the Tibet
leg of the relay. Little chance of that.

Tellingly, the 72 year old Dalai Lama recently said he felt
"helpless" because his "middle way" policy of seeking to negotiate
with Beijing was failing to find support among Tibetans. I'm not
surprised the famously cheery monk is somewhat gloomy these days. As
someone who is familiar with his thinking told me, even more than
ever, he is caught between a rock (younger, more radical Tibetan
exiles) and a hard place (Beijing). In the aftermath of the
earthquake, China not unnaturally has a great deal of sympathy
overseas and this appears to have led to a more inflexible stance
from the Chinese. Should Tibetan frustration break out in further
riots/demonstrations, the Dalai Lama will have no good options,
forced to choose between supporting the protesters and losing Beijing
completely or condemning the protests and losing vital support from
his own people. It's a delicate business for Beijing, too, though. I
don't believe that Beijing wants to see the Dalai Lama discredited
and radical younger exiles gain influence.

There don't seem to be any good options for anybody at the moment,
least of all the Tibetan people. Maybe it's too easy to be
pessimistic, but it's hard to see a scenario under which things
change for the better inside Tibet. And that means continued heavy
control by the military/police for a long time to come.
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