News and Views on Tibet

Tibet: ‘Forgotten for too long’ but not any longer

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by Tim Fisher

“Imperialist China, get out of Tibet!” This was one of the cries heard at a demonstration held outside the Chinese embassy in The Hague on Sunday, 16 March 2008. Just one of many such protests held across the globe.

The weekend just gone by saw the international spotlight concentrate still further on the protests inside Tibet, but also on those taking place elsewhere around the globe in support of the demonstrators inside the mountainous country, which first came under Chinese control in the years 1949-1950 and became an ‘autonomous’ part of the People’s Republic after aTibetan delegation was forced to sign an agreement “for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” in 1951.

10 March 1959

The current wave of protest, however, began last week to mark the 49th anniversary of the violent repression by Chinese forces of a spontaneous popular movement in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, which took the form of thousands of people coming together on 10 March 1959 to protect their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, from being abducted by the Chinese.

Brute force was used to crush that ‘uprising’, but sufficient time had been bought for the Dalai Lama to make his escape to India, where he has lived in exile up to the present day.

Support abroad

Support for the Tibetan protest movement was also displayed across the globe this past weekend, with demonstrations taking place in Paris and New York, among other places. In the Netherlands, several hundred people gathered outside the Chinese embassy in the country’s political capital, The Hague. One demonstrator managed to enter the grounds of the embassy, take down the Chinese flag and replace it with the flag of Tibet.

Also joining this demonstration in The Hague was Tsering Jampa of the International Campaign for Tibet. She spoke to the crowd:

“The Tibetan people inside Tibet, regardless of the unimaginable sufferings that they have to go through in their own land in the hands of the Communist party – have shown us in the last couple of days that they will not give up […] It’s a matter of identity and future of a country, the future of one country, one people who are just asking simply that they want to live in peace.”

She also spoke briefly to Radio Netherlands Worldwide: “Here are two or three parties (involved) actually. The one party is the Chinese government; they really have to talk to the Dalai Lama. On the other hand, you have the international community, that really has a responsibility. This international community – including the UN, the EU and national governments – they have forgotten the Tibetans too long.

As an international community we are making a super power, and this super power, who the governments see as a partner, is a dictatorial regime. And now we are telling the international community […] it’s time that they should really address the Tibetan issue seriously if they want to be a serious partner with China.”

Meaningful dialogue

It seems the international community is being stirred into action, with calls coming from many quarters for China and the Tibetan protestors to show restraint, and some indeed suggesting China should enter into a dialogue with those calling for Tibetan autonomy for the region. One of the clearest messages has come from New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clarke: “We want to see an end to the violence. We have long urged China to engage in meaningful dialogue with representatives of the Tibetan people, as we think this is the best way to achieve a lasting resolution of problems in Tibet.”

China, however, seems to be holding firm so far, and has given the ‘leaders’ of the protests in Tibet until later on Monday to surrender themselves to the authorities.

Protests in Tibet

The protests in Tibet are already said to have cost the lives of some 100 people, according to Tibet’s prime minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche, and possibly hundreds according to other exiled-Tibetan sources.

The Chinese authorities in Tibet have countered these claims, saying that they have not used firearms to break up demonstrations, but also that 13 people have been killed by the protestors.

Meanwhile, the protests are now also reported to have spilled over into neighbouring regions inside the People’s Republic which have significant number of ethnic Tibetan residents.

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