Tuesday, March 18, 2008

China is Blowing It

Editorial

China Terrorizes Tibet

Published: March 18, 2008

It was impossible not to notice that the United States removed China from its list of top 10 human rights violators just as the biggest anti-China protests in 20 years erupted in Tibet. Even when handed that undeserved dispensation, the Beijing government cannot control its authoritarian nature.

A week of protests in Tibet turned violent last Friday as Chinese security forces clashed with hundreds of Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans. Information was hard to verify — nearly all foreigners are barred from entering and Tibetans have no freedom — but news reports said a market in the capital was burned; at least 16, and perhaps many more, people were killed; and paramilitary police and troops were deployed. Over the weekend, rioting spread to neighboring provinces, and demonstrations even reached Beijing.

The protests began March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chinese took Tibet by force in 1951, and the region has been a source of tension ever since. Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — who, much to Beijing’s fury, met President Bush at the White House last October — has urged greater religious and cultural freedom for Tibet. But talks with Beijing have gone nowhere.

To earn the right to play host to this summer’s Olympics, Beijing promised to improve its human rights record. As its behavior in Tibet — and the recent arrest of the human rights advocate Hu Jia and others — demonstrates, China does not take that commitment seriously.

In its annual human rights report on 190 countries, the State Department conceded that Beijing’s overall performance remained poor. But in what looked like a political payoff to a government whose help America desperately needs on difficult problems, the department dropped China from its list of 10 worst violators.

Whatever gain China may have gotten from being elevated above the likes of North Korea, Myanmar, Iran and Sudan was lost by the crackdown on Tibet.


China had a chance to shine for its Olympic coming-out party and is blowing it. Its leaders will continue to have to battle protests and unrest — and endure international reproach — until they ensure more freedom for all their citizens, including greater religious tolerance and freedom for Tibet.


Dalai Lama Says He’ll Resign if Violence Escalates

Gurinder Osan/Associated Press
The Dalai Lama on Tuesday in Dharmsala, India.

By SOMINI SENGUPTA

Published: March 19, 2008

DHARAMSALA, India — The Dalai Lama on Tuesday invited international observers, including Chinese officials, to scour his offices here and investigate whether he had any role in inciting the latest anti-Chinese violence in Tibet. He also threatened to resign as leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile in the event of spiraling bloodshed in his homeland.

He said he remained committed to only nonviolent agitation and greater autonomy for Tibetans, not independence. He condemned the burning of Chinese flags and attacks on Chinese property and called violence “suicidal” for the Tibetan cause.

In a clear effort to quickly seize the higher moral ground and at the same time poke at China’s important aspirations, he complimented Beijing for having met three out of four conditions to be a “superpower” — he acknowledged it has the world’s largest population, military prowess, and a fast-developing economy.

“Fourth, moral authority, that’s lacking,” he said, and for the second time in two days he accused Chinese officials of a “rule of terror” in Tibet, the formerly Himalayan kingdom he fled for exile in India 49 years ago.

The Dalai Lama’s remarks to reporters on Tuesday, here in the seat of the Tibetan exile movement, also revealed thathe has been unnerved by the violence across the border in Tibet and by the increasingly radical calls from Tibetan exiles in this country.

The 72-year-old spiritual leader of Lama Buddhism said he would step down from his political post if things “get out of control.”

He said he planned to meet Wednesday with those who have vowed to march 900 miles from here to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and convey his “reservations” about their effort. The march has been a source of embarrassment to New Delhi. The first batch of marchers that set off from here last week was arrested by Indian police; the second batch was allowed to continue, but they are still well inside Indian territory. The Dalai Lama chided their ambitions. “On border, some clash with Chinese soldiers, what use that?” he said.

He acknowledged there was growing frustration and a feeling that his “Middle Way” approach — no independence for Tibet but a large degree of autonomy — had achieved no concrete gains. But but dismissed talk of any other path as impractical.

“Last few days I had a sort of feeling, a tiger, of a young deer in a tiger’s hand,” he said, in the most intimate confession during the winding, two-hour long exchange. “Deer really can fight the tiger? Can express. But actual fight? Our only weapon, only strength is justice, truth. But effect of truth, justice sometimes takes longer time. Weapons power is immediately there.”

No sooner had he finished speaking that protesters outside the gate of his compound torched a Chinese flag, shouting “Hu Jintao Murdabad,” which in Hindi is literally “death to Hu Jintao,” the Chinese president. Two hours later, they burned more Chinese flags. Earlier, monks chanted prayers and walked in thick columns through the hills. Gory photographs were pasted across town, of Tibetans allegedly shot and killed by Chinese forces.

The Dalai Lama said he remained open to resuming peace talks with Chinese officials, and in an impish reference to the criticisms by Chinese leaders, said a solution could be reached swiftly if there were “mutual respect” and a willingness to take Tibetan grievances seriously.

There was no direct criticism of either Mr. Hu or China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, only of local officials whom the Dalai Lama accused of creating “artificial facts.” “Prime Minister,” he said, addressing Mr. Wen, “Come here and investigate thoroughly.”

He went on: “Since we are not seeking independence, actually we are helping the Chinese government to build harmonious society, happy society and Tibet remain within the People’s Republic of China, happily. I am helping them, if they look at the situation calmly. But so far it’s full of suspicion, so therefore they cannot see reality.”

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