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Echoes of Pain in Tibet
|by Ramesh Menon|
China may want to silence the voices of protest in Tibet like it did in Tiananmen Square, but the Olympics will keep the issue alive all over the world. Everyday, Tibet is being discussed across the globe as never before. It is something that China would have wished never happened, as it was getting ready to showcase the country's modern face to the world with the Olympic games. All of a sudden this seemed like a public relations disaster.
There has been a clampdown of information, something that has been a hallmark in China. Foreign journalists can no more travel to and within Tibet and the eyes of the army are all over. Many army vehicles are reportedly moving around with covered license plates as it does not want the world to notice the army's role as it will be interpreted as army repression just at a time when the Olympics is round the corner.
The world was busy singing China's praises for its dramatic economic turnaround and how it was emerging as the world's biggest economic power when violent anti-China protests shook Tibet. It was the first major uprising after a similar one had failed in Tibet 49 years ago. China too was taken unawares as it was readying to showcase itself to the world as a modern nation when the Olympic games will be held later this year in Beijing.
Predictably, China moved in to brutally suppress the agitation in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital city, as Buddhist monks and Dalai Lama supporters who are ethnic Tibetans were out on the streets. They were demanding justice and autonomy. The authoritarian hand of China reminded the world of the brutal Tiananmen Square massacre where scores of youngsters were killed and injured when they demanded democracy. China does not take kindly to dissent.
Ironically, the United States had removed China from its list of human right violators wanting to do business with the emerging economic giant. As army vehicles rolled into Tibet, there were protests in various other provinces too. The tremors shook Beijing. For President, Hu Jintao, it was no mean challenge. Heading the Communist Party in Tibet two decades ago, he had spearheaded the action against ethnic Tibetans using the military to quash protests in Lhasa.
History has repeated and Hu is back suppressing the movement again as the world watches China in a year when it is trying to tell the world what a wonderful nation it has become. China had agreed to improve its human rights record when bidding for the games.
The status of Tibet was earlier ambiguous. It had taken to Buddhism around 1,300 years ago. It went about its life with leisurely pace as it sat on the roof of the world. Sources say that Chinese traditionalists predicted that China would do well only if it had Tibet within it and so China invaded Tibet and made it a part of China in 1951 Chairman Mao at that time called it a 'peaceful liberation' that was done to freed Tibetans from a feudal theocracy.
Dalai Lama who was the spiritual leader of the Tibetans was forced to flee to India along with thousands of others. Millions of Tibetans refugees now live scattered in various parts of India but are mainly in Dharamshala and Mcleodganj.
Dalai Lama recently said that they had no problem being with China but wanted autonomy to practice their religion.
China had always wanted Tibet. In 1720, China claimed suzerainty over Tibet but it was notional, as Tibetan rulers had always maintained that they were free. In fact, British troops had invaded Tibet in 1904 and China could do little to resist. Later there was a peace treaty between Tibet and Britain; a document that Tibetans say was proof of the fact that they were not a part of China.
Tibet was all the time trying to gain international attention to its plight. But it was not succeeding. In 1950, Communist leader, Mao Zedong, ordered that it be invaded and turned into an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. The troubles of the Tibetans have since simmered as they soon found their exclusive culture and heritage, customs and beliefs attacked as forcible Chinese occupation and forced marriages diluted it all.
Last year it invested millions of dollars making the world's highest rail link from inland China into Lhasa. It was an engineering marvel that climbed to 16,000 feet. This highest railroad in the world is special as it even has oxygen tanks built in its compartments to come to the aid of passengers gasping at such high altitudes. The railroad to the Tibetan capital was a clever ruse to tell the world that it was a part of China and it was doing all it could to develop it economically. Infact, China announced that the rail link was to give Tibet an economic boost.
However, local Tibetans suspect the rail link will only encourage Chinese migrants from all over the country to easily move in and settle down further watering down the typical Tibetan culture. Chinese officials claim that the per capita GDP has increased by almost hundred per cent in the last few years.
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