Thursday, March 20, 2008

Biejing Elite Ramp Up Tibetan Oppression

The Age

A Tibetan woman screams after being arrested during a protest in Kathmandu, the capital of Tibet's Himalayan neighbour, Nepal.

Mary-Anne Toy, Songpan, Sichuan Province
March 21, 2008

"LOVE your country, love your religion, together let's build a harmonious society," reads the banner fluttering in the spring sunshine at the 400-year-old Tibetan monastery in remote Sichuan province.

The Communist Party slogan, intended to reassure people that religion can co-exist with communism, rang hollow this week as Beijing mobilised its formidable security forces to contain the worst outbreak of Tibetan protests against Chinese rule in two decades.

More on Tibet

Tibet’s Gamble December 1, 2003

Can the Dalai Lama’s China talks succeed?
By Jehangir Pocha

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They had waited for him since dawn, sun-drenched along an uneven mountain road. But when the Dalai Lama’s motorcade swept by, his passing wave left many vaguely disenchanted.

Officials had warned that he would not be stopping; nevertheless, disappointment is hard to accept from a man many consider a god.

Now, as the 68-year-old Dalai Lama engages in talks with the Chinese government on the future of Tibet, there is a deepening sense of foreboding that he is falling short.

Last September, after intense secret negotiations, a personal emissary of the Dalai Lama met with the Chinese government in Beijing for the first time since 1959. A second meeting followed in May this year.

Many of Tibet’s 110,000 exiles see this as progress toward their return home. But others are irked by how much the Dalai Lama has conceded just to get a seat at the table.

His Holiness, as the Dalai Lama is universally called here, has dropped Tibet’s demand for independence from China in return for autonomy. There are also indications that Tibetans might accept this autonomy over a limited part of Tibet.

Long before Communist China’s army entered Tibet in the early 1950s, vast tracts of Tibetan land had been absorbed by China into regions such as Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. In 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled to India, China gained control over what was left of Tibet and in 1965 turned this area into a province called the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

The Dalai Lama now lays claim to all traditional Tibetan land, both TAR and the areas seized by China. But many say this demand is unrealistic and he should be flexible.

A Cornered Dog May Bite

But not everyone is happy with the concessions being made to the Chinese.

“You cannot give up the independence of Tibet. Anyone who tries this is making a mistake,” says Kalsang Godrupka Phuntsok, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC). With 20,000 members, the TYC is the largest NGO within the Tibetan community and is critical of the Dalai Lama’s “middle path” diplomacy.

Sitting in the TYC’s spartan headquarters, Phuntsok says: “The negotiations mean nothing. The Chinese cannot be trusted. They are just playing with (the Dalai Lama), buying time and waiting for him to die.”

Phuntsok says the time has come for Tibetans to set aside nonviolence and begin “targeted, victimless violence” against the Chinese, such as blowing up economic targets and railway bridges.

Students around him nod and say they are willing to die for their cause. Dhondup Dorjee, 24, explains why. “It’s not that I believe in violence,” he says sharply, “but even a street dog, if he’s cornered, will bite you.”

Not Always Nonviolent

With the Tibetan struggle iconized by the smiling, benevolent face of the Dalai Lama, such sentiments may surprise some. Few people realize that the Tibetans have tried violence against the Chinese before. Between the mid-’50s and 1972, Tibetans waged a covert war against China from Mustang in Nepal with the assistance of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The operation, code-named ST CIRCUS, was one of the CIA’s longest-running projects.

Thousands of Tibetan guerillas were trained at a base called Dhumra, or “the garden,” at Camp Hale in Colorado and also in Saipan. They were then parachuted into Tibet via Thailand or were smuggled in over land from Nepal.

President Nixon ended ST CIRCUS when he re-established diplomatic ties with China, and the operation’s records have never been made public.


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