Tibetan unrest shows China’s strong-arm policy stays

March 17th, 2008 - 7:40 pm ICT by admin  

By Jaideep Sarin
Hong Kong, March 17 (IANS) China’s crackdown on the Tibetan unrest in Lhasa and elsewhere in the mainland, reminiscent of the army action in 1989, raises doubt on whether there has been any softening of Beijing’s repressive policy towards Tibet. Mainland China based analysts feel that the violence in Tibet will be dealt with firmly, notwithstanding the government’s preoccupation to brighten its human rights records in the run-up to the Olympics.

“How Beijing reacts depends on the degree of the demonstrations. But once they turn violent, Beijing will crack down immediately and have things under control soon,” Thomas Chan Man-Hung, professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s China Business Centre, told the South China Morning Post here.

“When Hu Jintao suppressed an uprising by monks in 1989 (the second after the massive demonstrations in 1959), he was realising the country’s (China’s) policy on Tibet. Things haven’t changed a bit with him as president, not even when there is the Olympic Games,” Chan said.

Hu was the Communist party chief in Tibet when the second Tibetan uprising was quelled with use of force.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetans’ spiritual and temporal head who is being blamed by China for the latest round of violence through his ‘Dalai clique’ inside Tibet, Sunday addressed a press conference in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, his abode in exile, seeking international intervention to stop the “cultural genocide” in Tibet.

“Tibet is facing serious danger. Whether China admits it or not, there is a problem,” said the Dalai Lama, a 1989 Nobel Peace laureate.

He urged the Chinese authorities to tread the “middle path” in dealing with Tibet, seeking autonomy instead of independence.

Beijing dubs him as a ’separatist’, saying his autonomy plank is mere eyewash for returning to Tibet.

Over 120,000 Tibetans live in exile in India and other countries after the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 after the People’s Liberation Army took control of Lhasa and the rest of Tibet. He has been since living in exile in Dharamsala after India granted asylum to him and thousands of Tibetans.

In its Sunday editorial on the recent happenings in Tibet, South China Morning Post emphasised that China’s greater openness was vital to tackling the Tibet issue.

“The turmoil that gripped the Tibetan capital showed that Beijing’s long-term oppression of religious freedom and human rights had back-fired,” Ong Yewkim, visiting professor of Political Science and Law at China University, told the newspaper.

“Like it or not, the Dalai Lama still has enormous influence in Tibet and Tibetans will continue to feel their freedom of religion is not respected as long as Beijing forbids people to worship him,” Ong said.

Analysts feel that the Tibetan protesters scored in the timing of their protests when the Chinese political top brass was meeting in Beijing and also in the run up to the Olympics when the world keenly watches the country’s moves on human rights.

They, however, feel that there is no immediate threat of boycott for the Beijing Olympics, starting in just over four months.

“The nation’s (China’s) rising world status has exposed a glaring deficiency in its ability to manage information and argue its case. A dynamic and confident nation must be able to articulate a morally defensible stance.

“This must start with enhancing the rule of law, respecting rights and freedoms and allowing the domestic and international media to report the truth as they see fit. If Beijing would address its critics openly on issues it considers most sensitive, it might find to its surprise that it would get a better hearing,” the newspaper editorial stated.

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