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Count-Down to Beijing Olympics

While the Falun Gong has kept up its public campaign against the Beijing Olympics due in August, the Tibetan supporters of the Dalai Lama have toned down their campaign. There has been pressure on His Holiness from the Western Governments not to create difficulties for the Chinese before and during the Olympics.

2. Not only officials connected with the so-called Government-in-exile of his Holiness based in Dharmsala in India, but even the radical Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), whose radicalism has increased since September last year due to the role played by some American citizens of Tibetan origin, who had migrated to the US from India, have been avoiding any anti-Olympics statements. The Chinese as well as the Dalai Lama’s followers have toned their rhetoric against each other. Though the rhetoric has not completely disappeared from their propaganda against each other, the harsh words of the past have been toned down.

3. The Chinese have toned down their demonisation of His Holiness, but they continue to demonise the TYC by projecting it as a terrorist organisation, which allegedly advocates suicide terrorism. Lodi Gyari, the Washington DC based representative of the Dalai Lama, who leads the two-member team of the Dalai Lama in the on-again, off-again dialogue with Chinese officials, has become a new target of attack.Some Chinese columnists have been projecting him as a founding-leader of the TYC and hence as radical as the TYC.

4. Some Chinese columnists have expressed the view that the only way of making His Holiness give up what they see as his present policy of confrontation with Beijing is by having pressure exercised on him through his external supporters. By external supporters,they mean the US and the non-Governmental organisations and Congressmen in the US, who have been supporting him.

5. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) of the US continues to be an important target of attack. Its denial of any responsibility for the March,2008, uprising in the Tibetan-inhabited areas of China has not been accepted by the Chinese. They have a strong suspicion that the NED is behind the radicalisation of the TYC and that funds flow to the TYC from the NED through Lodi Gyari. The NED makes no secret of its financial contributions to various Tibetan organisations. Details of these contributions are available in its web site. Uncorroborated reports that the NED had organised a training camp for Buddhist monks from Myanmar and Tibet in techniques of political agitation in a camp in South Africa are bound to add to this suspicion.

6. While the Chinese authorities and columnists avoid any negative or critical references to India with reference to the activities of the Dalai Lama and his supporters, their concern and suspicions over the activities of the TYC could become a contentious issue if the involvement of American citizens of Tibetan origin in its activities in Indian territory increases.

7.The State-owned Xinhua news agency reported on June 30,2008, as follows: “The authorities announced Sunday that relevant central government departments will meet personal representatives of the Dalai Lama at his request in early July.The central authorities have kept a constant and clear policy towards the Dalai Lama, a government spokesman said. “Our door is always open for the dialogue with the Dalai Lama,” he said, “(We) hope that the Dalai Lama would treasure this opportunity and give positive response to the requirements of the central authorities.” This would be the second meeting since the March uprising. The first one was held in China on May 4,2008.

8. While the announcement on the second meeting was expected for some time, interestingly it coincided with the visit of Ms.Condoleezza Rice , the US Secretary of State, to Beijing and the quake-hit areas of the Sichuan province. During her stay in Beijing, she met President Hu Jintao on June 30,2008. She had also met Prime Minister Wen Jiabo. Her visit had nothing to do with the announcement since the Chinese had agreed to this second meeting even earlier. And yet, the fact that the Chinese chose to make the announcement during her visit is interesting.

9. The Chinese media reported that during her meeting with Hu, she told him that President George Bush was looking forward to his meeting with him during the forthcoming G-8 summit in Japan. She apparently did not refer to Bush’s planned visit to Beijing to attend the inaugural function of the Olympics. One would have expected her to say that Bush was looking forward to meeting Hu in the G-8 summit and to participating in the Olympics inaugural ceremony. However, she confined her remarks only to the summit. From this, one should not jump to the interpretation that Bush may be having second thoughts on his participation in the inaugural function.. All it shows is that he is keeping his options open .

10. Despite the toning down of the war of words between Beijing and the followers of the Dalai Lama, Chinese concerns over the possibility of violent attacks by Tibetan youth to embarrass the Chinese have not subsided. While they do not anticipate any acts of violence by the Tibetans in Beijing itself, they do apprehend diversionary acts of violence not only in Lhasa, but also in New Delhi and Western cities where there is a strong Tibetan presence.A question often posed by them is: Can the Tibetan youth kidnap a Chinese diplomat and hold him hostage during the Olympics to draw attention to their cause? Such acts will not be in the interest of the Tibetan cause and will prove counter-productive.

11. The Chinese have worked out a comprehensive physical security plan for the Olympics and the implementation of this plan has already started. This plan covers all important aspects such as civil aviation security, other public transport security, security in the venues of the games and the places of stay of the teams and public security in all important places which are likely to be visited by the teams, journalists and foreign spectators. They are also exercising caution while processing the visa applications of all intending visitors to China till the Olympics are over.

12. Of all the Muslim groups, only the Uighurs of Xinjiang origin living in the West and Turkey have kept up their campaign against Beijing. Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations, including those of Pakistan, which are members of the International Islamic Front of bin Laden, have been silent on the Beijing Olympics. Their silence need not necessarily mean that they have no plans to disrupt the Olympics at Beijing or create diversionary attacks against the Chinese in Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics, which have a strong Uighur diaspora with religious and ethnic links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or Group, which is also an Uzbek organisation, and the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan. All the three of them have their headquarters in North Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. If there is an act of jihadi disruption during the Olympics—either in Beijing or in Shanghai, where the football matches are to be held, or in Hong Kong where the equitation events are to be held— it will most probably emanate from North Waziristan. The Chinese are depending on the goodwill and co-operation of the Pakistani authorities to prevent any incident plotted from Pakistani territory.

13. One does not know whether a contingent from Denmark is participating in the Olympics. If it does, its security should be of the greatest concern to the Chinese security agencies—- particularly after the recent Al Qaeda-owned attempt to blow up the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, in which eight Muslims—mostly Pakistanis—were killed. Al Qaeda organised the suicide explosion to protest against the publication and re-publication of cartoons by the Danish media on the Holy Prophet. The anger against the Danish cartoons persists—in the minds of jihadi organisations as well as individual Muslims right across the Ummah. If the Danish contingent participates, its members will be interacting with Muslim athletes from all over the Ummah. Even if no jihadi organisation mounts an attack on the Danes, the possibility of anger-of-the-moment attacks on the Danes by individual Muslims has to be factored into in any plan for the protection of the Danes.

14. While the Chinese physical security is tight, one is not certain whether their preventive intelligence capabilities have been revamped and strengthened after the March uprising in Lhasa when they were taken completely by surprise. China has a large number of Muslim students from the Ummah. Those of them, who had left China in the months before the Olympics ostensibly to visit their relatives and returned just before the Olympics, would need special attention.

(The writer, Mr B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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