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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."

China and Tibet: Rejoice, damn you

March 29, 2009

China prepares to celebrate a dangerous anniversary
The Economist
March 26, 2009

BEIJING -- IT’S official: "Tibet has moved from
darkness to light, poverty to affluence,
dictatorship to democracy and seclusion to
opening up.” So proclaims the notice at an
exhibition in Beijing marking the 50th
anniversary of Tibet’s "democratic reforms." To
celebrate, officials in Tibet have designated
March 28th Serf Liberation Day. Lest anyone not
share the mood of rejoicing, security will be
tightened, dissidents kept behind bars and
foreigners firmly steered away from the region.

With grim determination the authorities are
trying to manufacture joy. Floral displays bedeck
parts of Lhasa. The official media are filled
with stories of happy Tibetans. In Beijing, the
Tibet exhibition aims to show how the region has
flourished under Communist rule after "centuries
of slavery and suppression." Pride of place goes
to a diorama showing former serfs merrily
chucking "feudal documents" into the fire.

But just in case, back in Lhasa, armed police are
still patrolling the streets after an outbreak of
rioting in March last year. Security forces are
also on full alert across the Tibetan plateau
amid fears that Tibetans may stage their own
commemorations. Many associate March 1959 not
with liberation but with Tibet’s failed uprising
against China and the flight of the Dalai Lama to
India. Dozens of Tibetan monks have been detained
in Ragya, a remote town in neighbouring Qinghai
Province, after violent protests there on March
21st triggered by the disappearance of a
colleague who had raised a pro-independence flag.

As the anniversary approaches, China is in no
mood to take chances. Alarmed by last year’s
widespread unrest in Tibetan-inhabited areas, the
government is waging offensives on all fronts.
Chinese pressure prompted the South African
government to deny a visa to the Dalai Lama, who
had been due to take part in a conference of
fellow Nobel peace prize-winners on March 27th in
Johannesburg. The organisers—South Africa’s
football authorities—responded by postponing the event indefinitely.

YouTube may also be a victim. Access to it has
been blocked in China since shortly after the
Tibetan government-in-exile released video
footage (denounced as a lie by China) purporting
to show Tibetan protesters being beaten by
Chinese police. No such slur is permitted in
Beijing. The cause of human rights in Tibet, says
an exhibition brochure, has made "remarkable progress."

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