The demonstrations by pro-Tibet independence activists could be deemed as one of the most violent within 20 years of Tibet’s history. The crackdown on demonstrators by China’s government was just as violent, if not more violent. These protests and demonstrations had come less than two weeks away before the start of the Olympic Torch relay that started in Greece.
Tibet is one of the many issues that loom over China in what could become a public relations nightmare. The 2008 Summer Olympics is set to be hosted in Beijing, this August. China has tried to keep the games and the politics separate. However, that has been easier said than done. It is known that many groups plan to use the Olympic Torch relay to stage their protests.
The Dalai Lama had accused China of committing “cultural genocide.” However, he talked with BBC in an interview a few weeks back. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who is the exiled leader of Tibet, expressed his concerns. He said that while he is the spokesman for the Tibetan people, he said that he does not control them. The Dalai Lama acknowledged that many of the activists have gone the more radical path.
Many have requested that the Dalai Lama do not ask for the protests to stop. However, the Dalai Lama had given an ultimatum. He said if the Tibetans continue to use violence, he would step down as Tibet’s leader.
As reported, many of the activists had taken to the streets of Tibet’s capital, Lhasa. Taking their frustrations out on the Chinese, demonstrators attacked Chinese owned businesses. One such business was a clothing store which was burned. Five young women were burned to death in the process.
Currently, the death toll is being disputed.
China’s Premiere Wen Jiabao accused the Dalai Lama of starting the demonstrations. He called the accusation nothing but lies. Wen also accused the Dalai Lama of trying to sabotage the Summer Olympics.
China’s government has used the deaths of these five young women to support its version of what happened in Tibet.
Meng Jianzhu, the head of the Ministry of Public Safety would use the deaths of those five young women to pin blame on the Dalai Lama for the violence. However, the Dalai Lama has been an advocate of using nonviolence.
Elie Wiesel along with 29 other Nobel Laureates have taken the Dalai Lama’s side. They had condemned China’s crackdown.
US Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also took the Dalai Lama’s side. She warned China that the world is looking over its shoulders. However, China criticized Pelosi saying that she was ignoring the fact that Tibetans too caused the violence.
While meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris, France, US GOP presidential nominee John McCain said that the crackdown was unacceptable of a world power such as China.
In the case of the five young women being burned to death, all but one are of Han Chinese ethnicity. The fifth one is ethnic Tibetan. The name of the clothing store was named Yishion. It was a store that sold clothing at the tourist area of Lhasa. All four Chinese women were workers at Yishion and cared about trying to make a living.
The Dalai Lama requested to talk with China’s government. However, China had refused and vowed to continue its crackdown on demonstrations. There have also been talks going on that China might bar all live TV broadcasts from Tiananmen Square for the duration of the Olympic Games.
The issue of Tibet will possibly raise tensions between the Chinese and the Tibetans. This could be a possible topic in regards to foreign policy later down the line in the debates between the GOP and Democratic nominees.