Tibet's Governor Warns Demonstrators of 'Harsh' Consequences

March 17, 2008 11:11 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A weekend of violent anti-China protests left a death toll that may be 80 or higher. On Monday, Tibet's governor called on protesters to desist.

30-Second Summary

The Tibetan governor puts the current death toll in Lhasa at 16, though exile groups say that number is closer to 80.

Demonstrations began on March 9, when hundreds of Buddhist monks walked to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to commemorate an unsuccessful 1959 uprising against Chinese rule that left thousands dead.

Chinese paramilitary police blocked the monks’ entry and surrounded nearby monasteries.

Many monks responded with hunger strikes, but on March 14 protesters filled Lhasa’s streets, clashing with police and setting cars ablaze.

The demonstration was the largest in almost two decades against Beijing's 57-year military control of Tibet.

“This is massive," a Tibet specialist told Time magazine. "It is the intefadah. And it will be a long, long time before this ends, whatever happens today or tomorrow."

The protests were reportedly timed to call attention to Tibet’s struggles as Beijing prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.

Chinese administration of Tibet has recently been harsh, Columbia University professor Robert Barnett told Time.

Many Tibetans also resent China’s 2006 construction of a train connecting Beijing with Lhasa, which led to an influx of Chinese immigrants. The Chinese now outnumber native Tibetans living in Lhasa.

Tibet’s independence movement has long followed Buddhist principles of nonviolence, but some young activists are questioning that approach.

“Our leaders quote Gandhi,” Tibetan exile leader Tenzin Tsundue told The New York Times in 2005. “But Gandhi saw British rule in India as an act of violence, and said that resistance was a duty.”

Referring to the Beijing-Lhasa railway, Tsundue added, “What’s wrong with blowing up a few bridges?”

Headline Links: The riots and the deteriorating situation in Tibet

Analysis: Growing Tibetan unrest

A Tibetan intefadeh
Largest Tibetan unrest in decades

Background: Nonviolence, activism and the Dalai Lama

Peaceful protests turn deadly
The protests begin
‘The Dalai Lama Blocks China from Choosing his Successor’
Tibet’s restless young leaders

Historical Context: Tibet and the 1959 uprising

‘1959: Dalai Lama escapes to India’
Tibet’s long history and the clash with China

Key Players: The Dalai and Panchen lamas

Dalai Lama
Panchen Lama

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