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Reactions in Greater Tibet

According to latest reports, the Chinese security forces continue to make house-to-searches in Lhasa for suspected participants in the violent uprising of March,14,2008. The total number of arrests made so far is estimated at about 500.In addition to people without proper documents, the Chinese troops have also been rounding up those with photographs of the Dalai Lama in their houses, those unable to explain satisfactorily where they were on March 14 and those with bodily injuries.

2. Vehicles of the People’s Armed Police have been moving round Lhasa with loudspeakers through which the people are reminded that it is a crime to keep photographs of the Dalai Lama ans asking those having his photographs to voluntarily surrender them. Those not surrendering the photos are warned of severe penal action against them.

3. With heavy troop deployments and a large number of arrests, the Chinese have the situation in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet fairly under control since the morning of March 15,2008. No major incident of violence has been reported from Tibet after March 15,2008. However, foreign tourists and journalists continue to be barred from Tibet and the trains to Lhasa are running practically empty. The only passengers are troop reinforcements being moved to Tibet.

4. Widespread and serious disturbances broke out in different towns and even in villages of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai on March 16 and they continued sporadically till the evening of March 18. As in Tibet, in these three provinces too which have large Tibetan population, the monks took the lead in protesting and were subsequently joined by students and other sections of the general population. There were, however, some qualitative differences between the disturbances of March 14 in Tibet and the subsequent disturbances in Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai.

5. Firstly, the disturbances in Tibet were largely confined to Lhasa, the capital. The rural areas were not much affected except for peaceful demonstrations by small groups of monks.In Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai, the disturbances were widespread and affected urban as well as rural areas. Secondly, there were a large number of anti-Han and anti-Hui attacks in Lhasa. In Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai, the anti-Han attacks were much smaller in number. Local officials and members of the security forces were the main targets of attacks at these three places and not Hans. There were raids by large groups of Tibetans, including many nomads on horse-back, on isolated and meagrely-staffed posts of the Army and the Police in these three places, the like of which one had not seen in Tibet.

6. There was also a difference in the slogans used by the demonstrators in Tibet and in the other three areas. In all the four places, one of the slogans praised the Dalai Lama and wished him a long life. Whereas in Tibet, another slogan called for independence for Tibet, one did not come across many slogans for independence in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. There were many slogans calling for democracy. The slogans used in these three provinces outside the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region also condemned the brutal suppression of the people of Tibet by the security forces after the uprising of March 14 in Lhasa.

7. On the basis of available evidence, it is possible to assess with a reasonable measure of conviction that whereas the uprising in Lhasa on March 14 had been pre-planned and well-orchestrated, the uprisings in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai were spontaneous outbursts of anger among the local Tibetans when news of the brutal suppression by the Chinese Army in Lhasa after March 14 reached these three provinces. One could also see that whereas the Tibetan Youth Congress, which calls for independence, had a greater influence on the minds of the Tibetan people in Tibet, particularly Lhasa, it does not have the same influence on the minds of the Tibetans in Sichuan,Gansu and Qinghai.

8. These three provinces have also been quiet since the evening of March 18, with no major violent incidents reported since then. There are heavy troop deployments in all these three provinces and many arrests of suspected participants in the violent incidents. (20-3-08)

(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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