We told you about the chaos happening simultaneously in Dharamsala, India and Lhasa, Tibet, and it looks like we’re only at the start of something big, very big. Here are snippets of a conversation with a friend who is resident in Lhasa, but has since left the city to live in the countryside till some semblance of stability returns:
“It’s like war out there – there are soldiers everywhere”
“There’s been a curfew in place since Monday, when the monks started protesting, but now the local people are joining in”
“The local people are lighting fires in the streets”
“There are no Chinese people or foreigners anywhere, they are all too scared”
“No one can get to Barkhor – it’s too dangerous. The Tibetans have closed the street off and have lit fires everywhere”
“My friend took some guests to the train station earlier and his car was attacked”
“I saw a Tibetan man who had been shot, he looked very bad”
“Hotels, shops, buildings all round the Jokhang have been smashed in”
Xinhua is by no means silent on the issue. First off, let’s here what the Tibet party chief had to say in what must be the world’s shortest news story ever:
“We fired no gunshots,” Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, told the press in Beijing on Saturday when asked about the unrest in Lhasa on Friday.
Naturally, the Dalai Lama and his ilk are to be blamed:
The government of Tibet Autonomous Region said Friday there had been enough evidence to prove that the recent sabotage in Lhasa was “organized, premeditated and masterminded” by the Dalai clique.
The violence, involving beating, smashing, looting and burning, has disrupted the public order and jeopardized people’s lives and property, an official with the regional government said.
The sabotage has aroused indignation of and is strongly condemned by the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, he said in an interview with Xinhua.
“The relevant departments of the regional government are taking effective measures to properly handle the incident in line with the law,” he said.
“We are fully capable of maintaining social stability of Tibet and safeguarding the safety of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet and their properties,” said the official.
“The plots by the very few people against the stability and harmony of Tibet run counter to the will of the people, and are doomed to fail,” he said.
Also, here’s what Xinhua had to say on police action:
Sources told Xinhua that policemen were ordered not to use force against the attacker. But they were forced to use a limited amount of tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the desperate crowds.
Xinhua reporters learnt that many policemen on duty were badly injured.
Police have not made any announcement of arrest, but an officer said the search for the vandals could be difficult as the mobs disguised themselves in plain clothes as ordinary citizens.
Meanwhile, according to AFP, the demonstrations have spilled over to Gansu province, which has a large population of ethnic Tibetans:
FRESH protests involving Tibetan Buddhist monks erupted in China’s northwest Gansu province on Saturday, with security forces using tear gas to disperse the biggest rally, campaign groups said.
The main protest was at and around the Labrang monastery, one of the largest Buddhist temples outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the International Campaign for Tibet and the Free Tibet Campaign said.
‘Tear gas was fired into the crowd,’ London-based Free Tibet Campaign spokesman Matt Whitticase said, citing eyewitnesses. He added that the protesters had destroyed some government offices in the city…
Xiahe police station could not immediately be contacted to confirm the reports, with the phone line constantly engaged.
The Free Tibet Campaign said at least 1,000 people were involved in Saturday’s protests, while International Campaign for Tibet spokeswoman Kate Saunders said there was up to 5,000 involved.
‘We have got confirmed reports of serious unrest in and around Labrang monastery,’ Ms Saunders said.
‘It was a major incident and it seems to have escalated. Chinese authorities are using tear gas and trying to suppress the protests.’
Reuters reports that a Monday deadline has been set for Tibetan rioters:
CHINA set a ‘surrender deadline’, announced deaths and showed the first extensive television footage of rioting in Lhasa on Saturday, launching a crackdown after the worst unrest in Tibet for two decades.
The response came following torrid protests on Friday which flew in the face of official claims the region was immune from unrest as Beijing readies to hold the Olympic Games in August…
‘Criminals who do not surrender themselves by the deadline will be sternly punished according to the law,’ stated the notice on the Tibetan government Web site.
It added that those who ‘harbour or hide’ them also face harsh treatment.
The government offered rewards and protection for informers.
Over in Dharamsala, the Tibetan government-in-exile has demanded UN intervention:
TIBET’S government-in-exile on Saturday demanded the United Nations intervene to end what it called ‘urgent human rights violations’ by China in the region following deadly protests.
The exiled government in Dharamshala in northern India, home to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, also said it had received ‘unconfirmed reports about 100 people had been killed and martial law imposed in Lhasa’.
‘The Tibetan parliament urges the UN to send representatives immediately and intervene and investigate the current urgent human rights violations in Tibet,’ the administration said in a statement.
The Press Trust of India reports that the Tibetan protestors that were earlier arrested in Dharamsala have defied police orders and continued on their march back to Tibet:
Nearly 100 Tibetan protesters, including women and nuns, have been arrested by police for violating Centre’s directive and heading towards Kangra district borders en route their journey to their homeland.
The marchers were stopped at Dehra Bridge, about 50 km from Dharamsala, and when they defied the district administration’s order and continued with their march, about 100 of them were arrested, DIG JR Thakur said.
Clearly, with all this bad news happening just a few months before the Olympics, it’s a major cause of concern for the international community, and the International Olympic Committee in particular. Here’s what an IOC member told the Daily Telegraph (UK):
“Clearly we are very worried about the situation. Our role is ultimately to organise a good Games but we have always been clear; when things start to affect the Games then we will react.”
An IOC spokeswoman added, however, that it was difficult for them to intervene. “We cannot interfere with sovereign matters,” she said. “What we said when we awarded the Games to China was that we hoped the presence of the Games would be a catalyst for China to improve on human rights.
“It is not in the IOC’s remit to try and sort out problems that have been beyond governments.”
Beijing, however, insists the latest protests will have absolutely no impact on the Olympics and the upcoming torch relay:
The past week’s unrest in Tibet will not have a negative impact on the Beijing Olympic Games and the torch relay, organizers said Saturday.
Preparations to carry the Olympic torch up Mount Everest and across Tibet “have been proceeding very smoothly and according to schedule,” said Sun Weide, a spokesman for the organizing committee, known by its initials, BOCOG.
Sun acknowledged that pro-Tibet groups and others have invoked the August 8-24 Olympics to publicize their causes, but said they represented only a tiny minority of global opinion.
“BOCOG opposes any attempt to politicize the Olympic Games because that runs counter to the very spirit of the Olympic Games,” Sun told The Associated Press.
“We have been receiving tremendous support from the international community for the Olympic Games,” he said.
Meanwhile, the whole event has raised yet more voices for an Olympic boycott. Certainly, the world is watching how Beijing handles the incident. Richard Gere says:
… [that] there “absolutely” should be a worldwide boycott of the Games if Beijing mishandled protests that official Chinese media say have left seven dead.
“In this situation if the Chinese do not act in the proper way, change their ways, acknowledge what is going on, allow free access to communication, then I think that absolutely we have to boycott” the Games, Gere told BBC radio.
“It would be unconscionable if we continued as if things are hunky dory and everyone’s happy. It’s impossible,” he said.
Over in Taiwan, elections are just one week away. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party which favours independence is currently trailing the more mainland-friendly Kuomintang in opinion polls, and have capitalised on the latest developments to score a few more points:
“As we look at Tibet, we must think about our own fate,” said Frank Hsieh, presidential candidate from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party…
“Tibet is a test case for China’s application of the anti-secession law,” Hsieh added, referring to Beijing’s 2005 edict authorising use of force in extreme cases against Taiwan.
The Taiwan foreign ministry and the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s main China policy maker, also condemned China’s use of force in Tibet to quell rioters.
“We strongly condemn China’s use of force to suppress Tibet and urge the international community to monitor the development in Tibet,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Our parent blog, Gothamist, reports of a demonstration outside the United Nations [Note: This specific page appears to have been GFW’ed]:
Roughly 100 protesters, most of them Tibetans, demonstrated outside the United Nations today against the Chinese government, which has been trying to put down protests and rioting in Lhasa. Three demonstrators were arrested for trying, unsuccessfully, to enter the U.N. and six were arrested for disorderly conduct.
This demonstration coincided with demonstrations around the world and the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule (the Dalai Lama fled the country). Psurbu Tsering of the Tibetan Association of NY and NJ told Newsday the group’s members had heard “70 people had been killed by Chinese authorities” in Tibet, “a thousand people had been arrested” and a lockdown on all monasteries.
Similar protests have been happening elsewhere around the world. A Sydney protest earlier today turned violent and seven people have been arrested. In London, several Tibetan youth stormed the Chinese embassy, and shouts of “Free Tibet”, “Tibet Belongs to Tibetans” and “Stop the Killings in Tibet” were said to have been heard from within the walls of the embassy. Police in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu have also broken up a protest by 200 Tibetans today, beating them with bamboo batons and arresting at least 20 of them.
Xinhua: Tibet regional gov’t: Sabotage in Lhasa masterminded by Dalai clique
Xinhua: Dalai-backed violence scars Lhasa
Reuters: China sets Monday surrender deadline for Tibet rioters
AFP: Tibetans protest in China’s Gansu province: campaign groups
AFP: Tibetan govt-in-exile demands UN intervention
Press Trust of India: Tibetans arrested on way to homeland
The Daily Telegraph: International Olympic Committee concern over China’s clashes in Tibet
AP: China says Tibet unrest to have no impact on Beijing Olympics, Everest torch relay plan
AFP: Actor Gere calls for Olympics boycott if China mishandles Tibet
Reuters: Taiwan criticises China over Tibet
Gothamist: Tibetans Demonstrate Outside U.N., At Least 9 Arrested
The Age: Tibetans turn violent in Sydney protest
Phayul: Tibetan Youth Storms Chinese Embassy in London
IHT: Police break up Tibetan protest in Nepal’s capital, arresting at least 20