By Saibal Dasgupta
BEIJING, December 9 - China has ended up with a huge image loss following the crackdown on monks in Tibet.
The incident has more serious political dimensions than the mere sealing off of a monestry, detention of five monks, and protest demonstrations by 400 other monks. The incident seems to be closely related to three recent developments.
They are the development of a rail link connecting the nearly inaccessible Tibet to the rest of China, the recent appointment of Zhang Qingli (a close ally of president Hu Jintao) as the acting chief of the Communist Party in Tibet, and the visit of the special investigator on torture of the UNHRC to Lasha a few days back.
"The authorities seem to have stepped up their 're-education campaign' of forcing monks to denounce the Dalai Lama and make loyalty pledges since the appointment of the new Communist Party boss in Tibet," Mickey Spiegel, researcher at the Human Rights Watch, told TNN.
Zhang Qingli, 54, was the vice governor of the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, which is another province that has drawn international attention for voilation of human rights.
The high-handed treatment of the monks reveals a difficult balancing act by the authorities: It wants to disallow any form of dissent while trying to improve China's record and international image on the human rights issue.
The incident has raised serious questions about China's claims on improvements in its human rights records.