March 17, 2008


Tibet -- China's Gaza Strip (Jürgen Kremb, 3/17/08, Der Spiegel)

The promise that Beijing will uphold human rights in the run-up to the Olympic Games has now gone out the window.

Even before the Olympic torch passes through the streets of Lhasa and is carried up Mount Everest later this spring, Chinese judges will likely have already handed down the first death sentences to demonstrators.

For the planners of the Olympic Games and for China's politicians, who would have liked to have basked in the glory of a clean and apolitical Games, their worst nightmares have come true.

Pointing the finger of blame now helps nobody. Instead, it is time to confront reality. The fact remains that the Tibetan conflict is a political problem. Beijing and the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, India are paying the price of wasting 20 years, when they could have worked towards a serious and peaceful solution.

The last time this happened was in the 1980s. At the time the Dalai Lama, with Chinese approval, sent three delegations to Tibet. Each of the groups, who were led by the Dalai Lama's relatives, exile politicians and high-ranking Buddhist dignitaries, led to tumult in the region.

People broke down in tears. They reported unspeakable suffering and terrible human rights abuses during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. They spoke of genocide and the destruction of Buddhist culture. According to various estimates, up to 1.2 million Tibetans have died due to the Chinese occupation and various political campaigns since the Dalai Lama fled his homeland in March 1959.

Beijing was shocked by the outpouring of grief and has avoided any dialogue since then.

China and its minorities (Philip Bowring, March 17, 2008, IHT)
Non-Han minorities may comprise only 9 percent of China's population, but as the violence in Tibet and simmering resentment in Xinjiang indicate, the problem is one that Beijing is unable to resolve. [...]

There are three reasons for the Communist leadership's inability to address the issue other than by repression. First, given that Beijing's first priority is government centralization, the official designation of any "autonomous region" in China is a façade.

Second, there is the innate belief in the superiority of the Han race, a notion historically reflected in China's attitudes to all its neighbors as well as toward the non-Han minorities within its borders.

Third, the three regions with significant minority populations that are actual or potential trouble spots are all frontier areas that Beijing regards as strategically important. the Han. Oh, those Olympic ideals....

China: It's Not Just Tibet: Unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang illustrates the failure of Beijing's attempt to drive development in its western regions (Dexter Roberts , 3/17/08, Business Week)

Over the last week, Beijing has announced it foiled a plot by Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang, in China's far west, to disrupt the upcoming Games, as well as an attempted terrorist act by a 19-year-old Uighur woman on a Chinese airline. And security forces have suppressed protests by Tibetans chafing under Chinese rule in Lhasa, turning a favored destination for world travelers into a sullen, occupied city. "It is really bad here. I shouldn't tell you anymore," says a 39-year-old Chinese resident of Lhasa. [...]

[I]ncomes in largely rural western China continue to lag the rest of the country. That has helped fan ethnic resentment aimed at the millions of Han Chinese who have migrated into the region and have taken skilled, higher-paying jobs building the new roads, airports, and power stations. Chinese typically also operate most of the smaller entrepreneurial urban businesses, including restaurants and small shops. So while overall rural incomes of $583 are less than one-third of urban ones, in the west (where city-country populations tend to split, with the Chinese urban and the minorities rural) it is more extreme. Tibet's rural income is $393, or about one-quarter that of urban incomes, while in Xinjiang it is only slightly higher, at $444. "The urban-rural income gap in the west is already worse than that for the whole country. And it keeps getting bigger," says Zhang.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest infrastructure projects seem to do little for local people, and often even exacerbate tensions. Case in point: the $4 billion Qinghai-to-Tibet Railway that opened less than two years ago and has brought a new flood of Chinese immigrants to Tibet to compete with locals for scarce jobs. In Xinjiang, a 4,000km-long multibillion-dollar pipeline takes gas from the Muslim region to coastal cities such as Shanghai.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 17, 2008 5:21 PM

"The promise that Beijing will uphold human rights in the run-up to the Olympic Games has now gone out the window."

NOW? I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

"Non-Han minorities may comprise only 9 percent of China's population"

OK, so 0.09*1.3e9=117 million people. No big deal, then.

Posted by: b at March 17, 2008 6:15 PM

Who came up with the bright idea of letting China host the Olympics? What was the thought process? Between the pollution, provinical unrest, peasant riots, organizations/governments/celebrities publically calling out their government for any number of reasons there's essentially no chance of this going off without controversy.

Posted by: andrew at March 17, 2008 7:30 PM

... in such esoteric debates as to whether Tibet was truly sovereign prior to the arrival of the Chinese ...

The way I remember it, about fifty years ago, China invaded and occupied Tibet killing many monks, desecrating their temples and inflicting unspeakable hardships on the people.

What's to debate?

Posted by: erp at March 18, 2008 8:58 AM