Tibet Protests Widen in Scope

i-a6d1645301db5d241c7f3bc4fde571ec-tibet.jpgThere is trouble in Tibet. And some reports indicate that things are only going to get worse in the near future.

Protests over Chinese Rule, controlled by both police and Chinese military, have spread beyond Lhasa, according to recent reports, and the Dalai Lama has called for an international inquiry into the deaths of many protesters.


The clashes in Aba, known as Ngawa in Tibetan, happened around 1200 local time on Sunday, according to Kate Saunders of the International Campaign for Tibet....

"According to reliable reports the police opened fire," said Ms Saunders, who is in London but said she had indirect phone and web access to eyewitness accounts. "We know there have been deaths."

She said that more than 1,000 monks had been on the streets of the town, which is home to a large monastery.

Accounts of how many people died differ, but she said the most reliable eyewitness source put the toll at seven.

Reuters news agency cited an unnamed police officer in Aba saying that Tibetans had thrown petrol bombs, burned a police station, and torched vehicles during the clashes.


As you probably know, the Chinese plan to send the Olympic Torch up to the top of Mt. Everest, and it would travel through Tibet. In fact, a colleague of mine (who shall remain nameless) is planning to go to Tibet soon, to visit sites along the base of Everest that are linked with this ceremony, representing his country and dropping off various offerings of scientific international unity, etc. etc., with the Chinese and the Tibetans.

But I think the Chinese are being taken a bit by surprise. They don't really own Tibet .... they just think they do .... and weaving the territory into carefully laid Olympic plans is proving tricky.

There is now a "midnight deadline" set (for tonight) of as yet unspecified meaning, after which a refreshed military crackdown is feared. According to James Miles, possibly the only western journalize in Lhasa:

From our hotel rooftop, crouching low as is now the norm, I saw a patrol of troops disappearing around a corner. They appeared to have two Tibetan women with them. Under arrest? Escorting them home? It was impossible to tell. For the first time since the rioting began on Friday there was no sign during the day of any attempt to gather on the streets.

One Tibetan said that he saw troops with rifles clustered on a nearby rooftop.

Polite officials from the Tibetan government's Foreign Affairs Office visited the hotel yesterday. One said he wanted to relay the concerns of his bosses about my welfare. He was concerned too about the supply of food and offered to help if I wanted to leave before my permit expired. It might be difficult, he said, to arrange a ticket because so many were trying to leave Tibet. I thanked him for the offer. The two officials headed back to their car, which they said they had had to leave parked a distance away because of the security cordon.

The worry now is about tonight's deadline. Will this be followed by knocks on doors and sweeping, indiscriminate arrests? Many Tibetans keep pictures of the Dalai Lama in their homes. I imagine now that they are busy secreting them.

Additional news and information can be found here:

The Government of Tibet (in exile)
Canada Tibet
Times Online: Report from the only western journalist in the vicinity.


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Boy, you don't want to piss off a buddhist monk if you know what's good for you. This is going to very awkward for China because they want to look good in the run up to the Olympics. If they crack down too hard there might even been an international boycott of the games.

It's pretty scary. The official Chinese newscast is only showing scenes of Tibetans causing problems, so that they can look to the rest of China as though they are merely dealing with troublemaking elements. They are controlling who can leave, so that the real stories don't get out.

You know the part about how the conservatives crow that they defeated communism? For all of their embracing of market-based economics, the Chinese government still has yet to learn the part about freedom and self-rule of other countries. (Maybe they have learned all too well from the United States.)

The Chinese Communists are very slow learners when it comes to government.

I hope more news of this gets out and people do boycott the Olympics there. They don't deserve to have them there anyhow.

I too am wondering about the effect this will have on the Games and if there will be boycotts. If this action by China continues I do hope there will be a boycott, but I'm rather doubtful there will be. Some individual athletes may decide to boycott, but I think there's too much money involved in the Games for official boycotts.

Governments and sporting bodies may mumble a thing or two about the need to respect human rights, and how the Olympics offers an opportunity to focus attention on such issues, but they will also say a boycott would be counter-productive and against the Olympic Spirit. There's masses of dollars at stake (100s of millions? 1000s even?), and the lure of lucre will win out.

By Stephen D Moore (not verified) on 16 Mar 2008 #permalink

My thoughts about the lure of lucre relate only to the Olympics in itself. There is potentially trillions of dollars at stake in general access to the Chinese market. Nations that do boycott will no doubt be looked upon unfavourably and most likely have there access to the Chinese market restricted in favour to those nations that do attend the Games.

By Stephen D Moore (not verified) on 16 Mar 2008 #permalink

I wonder how political the protests are. Certainly, they are linked to the 10th March anniversary of the Tibetan uprising but at the same time there are reports of looting and mob rule (another correspondent on the spot). Every police force would have to react in such circumstances (on the other hand it does look like the Chinese are using excessive force). It all seems very confusing and the tight control the Chinese hold over the information that gets out does not help.

I do have the impression that the news we read here in the West are biased by a romantic image of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama and Tibet.

I fully agree that the Chinese must be surprised by the extend of the violence and that they are scared of the publicity disaster in connection with the Olympics.

P.S.: For the German speakers and to foster the exchange between scienceblogs.com and scienceblogs.de, I would like to mention my post on the same topic at scienceblogs.de (zoon politikon).