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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."

OPINION: Simmering Discontent

June 18, 2008

By using its economic muscle and the sympathy on the earthquake
skillfully, Beijing succeeded in diluting the human rights campaign
but the action against Tibetans suspected of supporting the Dalai
Lama continues as vigorously as before. ...
B. Raman
Outlook (India)
June 16, 2008

Unless the Chinese authorities have modified the route of the Olympic
torch, which is being taken across China, it should be in the Tibetan
inhabited areas of China later this week. According to the original
programme, it is to reach Lhasa around June 19, 2008.

As a mark of respect to the memory of the nearly 70,000 people who
were killed in the huge earthquake in the Sichuan province on May 12,
2008, the passage of the torch has been marked by solemnity to
underline the unity of China without any gaiety.

There has been a realisation by the international community that
because of the huge tragedy caused by the quake, it would be
inappropriate for the Tibetans to organise another flare-up similar
to what had taken place in the Tibetan-inhabited areas in March,
2008. The Dalai Lama's recent visits to Germany and the UK after the
March uprising and his current visit to Australia have been marked by
a downgrading of the importance accorded to his visit by the host governments.

In Germany, no meeting with any important leader of the government
was organised. In the UK, he did meet Prime Minister Mr Gordon Brown,
but in the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury and not in the Prime
Minister's office in No. 10, Downing Street. Mr Brown met him in his
capacity as an important Buddhist leader to discuss the human rights
of the Buddhists in Tibet and not as an important political leader of
Tibet to discuss the future of Tibet. Mr Kevin Rudd, the Australian
Prime Minister, has been on a visit to Japan and, in his absence, His
Holiness reportedly met his No.2 in the Cabinet.

Through well-organised public protests all over China against the
disturbances by Tibetans and their supporters during the passage of
the Olympic torch though London, Paris and San Francisco and also in
other countries such as Australia and Japan, and calls for the
boycott of Western--particularly French--goods, Bejing was able to
subtly convey to the West that it is likely to be economically hurt
if the Beijing Olympics were sought to be exploited for humiliating China.

Western corporate houses, which have invested heavily in China and in
the Olympics too as sponsors, mounted pressure on their governments
to cool it and refrain from humiliating China. The French climb-down
after the largely-attended demonstrations against the Carrefour, the
French supermarket chain, was particularly striking. The French
leaders are no longer calling for a boycott of the Games. They have
even admitted that the conditions imposed by Beijing for a resumption
of the dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet are reasonable.

The flare-up in the Tibetan areas came at a time when US exports to
China have started going up and China has emerged as the third
largest destination for American exports after Canada and Mexico.
This week, a bi-annual Sino-US conference is being held in the US on
strengthening the strategic economic partnership with China. At a
time, when India has been focusing on strengthening its strategic
political and military relationship with the US, China has been
concentrating on strengthening its strategic economic relationship
with the US and the economic inter-dependence between the two
countries. This idea finds much support in the community of the US
corporate houses.

By using its economic muscle skillfully, Beijing has succeeded in
having the human rights campaign on the eve of the Olympics toned
down. The support for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetans has not been as
vociferous as it was before March. The US-funded Radio Free Asia,
which had stepped up its broadcasts in the Tibetan and Uighur
languages after March, has since toned them down--particularly after
the quake.The campaign against China on the Darfur issue is also on a
low key now.

The Dalai Lama himself seems to understand that any major violent
uprising in the Tibetan-inhabited areas during the passage of the
Olympic Torch could prove counter-productive. He has reportedly urged
his supporters to avoid any violent protests.

As a sop to His Holiness, the Chinese have kept open the possibility
of another round of talks with the representatives of His Holiness in
July if there are no disturbances during the passage of the torch.
They have also toned down their campaign of demonisation of His Holiness.

At the same time, the preoccupation of the Chinese Army with quake
relief in the Sichuan Province has not come in the way of its drive
to identify, arrest and jail all those who are suspected to be
sympathisers of the Dalai Lama. While the rhetoric has been toned
down, the action against Tibetans suspected of supporting the Dalai
Lama continues as vigorously as before. Sixteen Tibetan monks have
been arrested and prosecuted on charges of attempting to cause
explosions in March in an apparent attempt to project them as terrorists.

Such actions are once again showing signs of added anger against
Beijing. After a near lull of about two months, reports of fresh
incidents have again started coming in. In the latest incidents, it
is Tibetan women and nuns who have been in the forefront. Five
Tibetan women staged a public protest in the Ganzi area of the
Sichuan province on June 11,  2008. They were arrested and allegedly
beaten up. This led to a protest march by about 300 nuns on June 14,
2008. The situation in the Tibetan-inhabited areas of China is again
becoming sensitive.

* B. Raman is Additional Secretary (ret.d), Cabinet Secretariat,
Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For
Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai
Centre For China Studies.
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