THE 2008 OLYMPICS AND FALLOUT OF TIBETAN UPRISING IN 2008

FALLOUT OF TIBETAN UPRISING IN 2008

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Protest in Golog

Xinhua News Agency accused the Tibetan Youth Congress of planning the riots in Lhasa. As evidence, Xinhua cited alleged statements and speeches by Youth Congress leaders, as well as a purported plot to smuggle weapons into Tibet to launch attacks. The Tibetan Youth Congress has said China's communist leadership had long sought to destroy its effectiveness by smearing its reputation. [Source: Associated Press, April 12, 2008]

In his first public comments on the protests, Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line on the unrest in Tibet, saying problems in the region are an internal affair that directly threatens Chinese sovereignty. "Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem," Xinhua quoted Hu as saying, referring to supporters of the Dalai Lama. "It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland."

After the uprising, 27 foreign minsters from European Union countries criticized China for its actions in Tibet and called for talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government responded by saying, “The Tibet issue is completely China’s internal affair. No foreign countries or international organizations have the right to interfere in it. A resolution in the U.S. Congress called for Beijing to “end its crackdown on nonviolent Tibetan protesters,” along with cultural, religious, economic, linguistic “repression and said China’s response to the riots has been “disproportionate and extreme.”

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources: Tibetan Uprising.org tibetanuprising.org ; Eyewitness Accounts chineseinvancouver.blogspot.com ; Eyewitness Accounts in Christian Science Monitor csmonitor.com ; ; YouTube Video YouTube ; Photos uprisingarchive.org; Tibetan History: Tibetan History Timeline haiweitrails.com ; Friends of Tibet friends-of-tibet.org ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; History of Nations site historyofnations.net ; Chinese Government site on Tibetan History xinhuanet.com ; Book: Tibetan Civilization by Rolf Alfred Stein. Robert Thurman, a friend of the Dalai Lama and professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University, is regarded the preeminent scholar on Tibet in the United States. Tibet Under China: Tibet China Conflict PDF file eastwestcenter.org ; Tibet and China, Two Distinct Views rangzen.org/history : Chinese Government’s Take on Tibetan History ; index-china.com; Book: The Dragon in the Land of Snows by Tsering Shakya (Random House, 1998) is a first rate book on the history of Tibet under Chinese occupation. Links in this Website: TIBETAN HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/China ; TIBET UNDER CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ;TIBETAN UPRISING IN 2008 Factsanddetails.com/China ; FALL OUT OF TIBETAN UPRISING IN 2008 Factsanddetails.com/China ; TIBETAN GOVERNMENT Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA AND TIBET Factsanddetails.com/China ; THE 2008 OLYMPICS IN BEIJING AND POLITICS Factsanddetails.com/China

Good Websites and Sources on Tibet: Central Tibetan Administration (Tibetan government in Exile) www.tibet.com ; Chinese Government Tibet website eng.tibet.cn/ Wikipedia Wikipedia Tibetan Resources phayul.com ; Open Directory dmoz.org/Regional/Asia/China/Tibet/ ; Snow Lion Publications (books on Tibet) snowlionpub.com ; Photos Tibet Photo Gallery Tibet Gallery Terra Nomada Terra Nomada ; Tibetan Cultural Sites: Conservancy for Tibetan Art and Culture tibetanculture.org ; Tibet Trip tibettrip.com ; Tibetan Cultural Region Directory kotan.org ;

Chinese Government Sources on Tibet: China Tibet Information Center en.tibet.cn ; White Paper on Tibetan Culture english.people.com.cn ; Tibet Activist Groups: Tibet Online tibet.org ; Students for a Free Tibet studentsforafreetibet.org ; Students for a Free Tibet UK /sftuk.org ; Friends of Tibet friendsoftibet.org ; Tibetan Review tibetan.review.to ; Campaign for Tibet (Save Tibet) savetibet.org ; Tibet Society tibetsociety.com ; Free Tibet freetibet.org ; Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy tchrd.org

Tibetan Studies and Tibet Research: Tibetan Resources on The Web (Columbia University C.V. Starr East Asian Library ) columbia.edu ; Tibetan and Himalayan Libray thlib.org Digital Himalaya ; digitalhimalaya.com ; Tibetan Studies Maps WWW Virtual Library ciolek.com/WWWVL-TibetanStudies ; Center for Research of Tibet case.edu ; Center for Advanced Tibetan Studies amnyemachen.org ; Tibetan Studies resources blog tibetan-studies-resources.blogspot.com ; News, Electronic Journals ciolek.com/WWWVLPages

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Protests after the Tibetan Uprising in 2008

Pro-Tibetan, anti-Chinese protest were staged in the United States, India, Nepal, Switzerland and other places. Tibetans clashed with police outside the United Nations building in New York. Five hundred Tibetans protested outside the White House in Washington. In Kathmandu, there were several demonstrations. In one police roughed up individuals in group of around 1,000 protestors, including dozens of monks. Twelve monks were injured,. In New Delhi, pro-Tibetan protesters tried to storm the Chinese embassy. There were even pro-Tibetan protest in Jakarta.

Within China , there was a candlelight vigil, with 100 participants at Beijing University and a sit-in with 500 students at Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou, Gansu Province. Intellectuals circulated an open letter to the Communist Party on the Internet, urging them to behave in a civilized manner and hold a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

In mid-April about 70 Tibetan refugees and monks in Kathmandu went on a hunger strike. Saying they would not eat until Tibetans arrested during the protests were released.

Olympics and Tibetan Uprising in 2008

The Chinese government said the events in Tibet would not affect the torch realy through Tibet and to Mt. Everest nor affect the Olympics themselves. At the same time foreign governments and Tibetan groups said that the crackdown in Tibet appeared to violate Beijing’s promise to improve human rights to get the Olympics and its obligation to uphold the Olympic charter, which extols “human dignity.”

A handful of pro-Tibetan protestors disrupted the torch ceremony in Greece and managed to link the Tibetan issue and the Olympics before a worldwide media audience. In ancient Olympia, fifteen protestors, shouting “Free Tibetan” and carrying banners that read “Stop Genocide in Tibetan” charged a police cordon as the head of the Beijing Olympic Committee was giving a speech. Three men ran onto the field at the ancient stadium in Olympia during the flame-lighting ceremony, unfurling a black banner with handcuffs in shape of the Olympic rings. A Tibetan woman covered in red paint lay on a road in front of a runner carrying the Olympic torch shouting "Free Tibet” and ‘shame on China.” Chinese television, which was showing the ceremony live, cut away to a prerecorded scene,

The French foreign minster Bernard Kouchner raised the idea of boycotting the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, an idea that was also endorsed by the president of the European Parliament. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he might boycott the event. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the leaders of Poland and Estonia also said they wouldn’t attend. Sarkozy latter softened his position and called for a European-wide agreement on whether or not to boycott the Opening Ceremonies. There as some pressure of Bush to skip the ceremony but Bush insisted he would attend. Among those that came to China’s support was North Korea.

Some people who were picked to be Olympics torchbearers withdrew to protest China’s actions in Tibet. As for the sponsors that had spent millions to advertise at the Beijing games, Coca-Cola said it "joins others in expressing deep concern for the situation on the ground in Tibet....While it would be inappropriate for sponsors to comment on the political situation of individual nations....we firmly believe that the Olympics are a force of good.”

The Dalai Lama said that he would be “happy” to attend the Olympics if invited and led a special Buddhist prayer service for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.

Olympic Torch Relay and Tibetan Uprising in 2008

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The Olympic torch relay became an object of protest. In London, police wrestled protesters to the ground who attempted to disrupt the relay. One man tried toe extinguish the flame with a fire extinguisher. In a Paris, more than 3,000 police were deployed to secure the relay route and the torch was surrounded by a phalanx of vehicles and 200 security force members, some of them on roller blades. Even with all that, the torch was put out three times and put on bus to keep it safe. At one point tear gas was used on protestors who tried to block the route. A banner with handcuffs shaped into the Olympic rings was hung from the Eiffel Tower. Even when the torch was extinguished the Olympics flame continued to burn a lantern where it is kept overnight and for plane flights.

Protesters booed the torch even as it was carried by a woman in a wheelchair, a Chinese paraolympic fencer named Jin Jing. Chinese were outraged by images of pro-Tibetan protesters trying to wrestle away the torch from her. Jin was made into a kind of hero and described on the Internet as the ‘smiling angel in a wheelchair.”

Many ordinary Chinese were again appalled that China’s Olympic moment in the spotlight was politicized. In San Francisco the relay route was shortened and a huge “Free Tibet” banner was hung from the Golden Gate Bridge. Thousands of anti-Chinese protesters, some carrying Tibetan flags and chanting ‘shame on China.” filled the streets. A planned closing ceremony was canceled and the torch was quickly placed on a plane and whisked out of the country with hardly a goodbye,

The IOC mulled stopping the international relay but Beijing insisted it go on. After the first day of trouble in London, a Chinese government spokesman said, “Today, a tiny number of Tibetan independence elements sought to disrupt the relay of the Olympic Games sacred flame....We strongly condemn this vile behavior.”

During some stops an elite unit of Chinese security officers surrounded the torch. Tall, muscular and dressed in blue-and-white running suits, they were criticized for their harshness, not only pushing away protesters but also roughing up torchbearers and people associated with the Olympics. Sebastian Coe, aan Olympic medalist and head of the London Olympics organizing committee, called them “thugs” and said they “tried tp punch me out of the way three times.” In Paris, they were the ones who put out the flames. The French described them as tense, robotic, irritable and aggressive.

The Tibetan cause is active in a number of countries and groups are fairly well organized. They were able to use their network to set up protest in a number of paces.

Olympic Torch Relay in Asia, Africa and Australia

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In Africa, Kenya’s Nobel peace Prize winner, Wngari Maathai, withdraw from the relay. In Pakistan, the torch was run through streets that had been cleared of people to avoid trouble. There was also a massive security clampdown in India where 15,000 police were deployed on the streets of Delhi to keep make sure Tibetan protestors kept their distance from the flame which was taken on a shortened route by 70 sports stars and celebrities, including Bollywood film stars. Thousands of Tibetans showed up for rallies and protest held across India. May of them carried Buddhist prayer lamps.

In Jakarta eight activist were arrested and the relay was limited to laps around the city’s main stadium. In Australia the flame was taken to a secret location and fences were erected along the torch relay route and 10,000 Chinese gathered for a pro-Beijing rally. In Seoul, South Korea, 500 Chinese students clashed with and threw rocks and bottles and 50 activists protesting the treatment of North Koreans that escaped to China, with one North Korean defector stopped as he tried to set himself on fire. In Nagano, Japan Chinese students clashed with pro-Tibetan activists. Some the clashes resulted in bloodied noses and scrapes, which the Chinese students played up before cameras. Buses that took the students to Nagano were organized and paid for in part by the Chinese government.

In Japan, that original starting point of the torch relay, Zenkoji temple, withdrew from the relay . The safety of worshipers and the inconvenience caused them was sited as the primary reason for the decision but concerns over the situation in Tibet were also cited. A spokesman for the temple said, “As a place of Buddhism and religion, we took into account [China’s] human rights violations against Tibet.”

In Hong Kong, small group of pro-Tibetan and pro-democracy protestors greeted the torch. One pro-Tibetan activist was heckled and accused of being a traitor by a group of bystanders. No trouble was reported on the North Korean leg of the relay.

Olympic Torch Relay in China, See Olympics. Sports

Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Uprising in 2008

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China accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the uprising and called him a “devil with a human face.” Prime Minister Wen Jibao lashed out against him, accusing the Dalai Lama clique of trying to sabotage the Beijing Olympics and saying that Dalai Lama’s accusations of “cultural genocide” were “lies.” Wen also said, “We have plenty of evidence...proving that the incidents was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique.”

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said. “This riot was deliberately manipulated by the Dalai Lama clique, and our government has taken legal actions to return Lhasa and other places to normality...The Dalai Lama is not purely a religious person. For a long time, he wore a religious coat and held the banner of peace while trying to separate China and destroy social stability and national unity.”

Beijing said that it had a written confession by an unidentified monk that proved the Dalai Lama incited the riots, According to an article released by Xinhua the monk said in his confession: “For the sake of protecting myself, (the Dalai Lama clique) asked me not to participate in the demonstrations in person, just in charge of stirring people up.”

On the Internet, Chinese blasted the Dalai Lama as a “terrorist jackal” and compared him to Hitler In repose to these denouncements, the Dalai Lama said, “I am really very sad the government demonize me. I am just a human, I am mot a demon."

The Dalai Lama denied the allegations made against him. He opposed a boycott of the Olympics, insisting that if nothing else the games were a chance to remind China of its human rights records and obligations. The Dalai Lama did however urge China not to conduct the torch relay in Tibet. According to spokesman for the Dalai Lama the plan “would be very deliberately provocative and very insulting after what happened.”

The Dalai Lama took both a confrontive and conciliatory stances, called for an investigation into the riots in Lhasa and repeatedly appealed to Beijing to enter into “meaningful dialogue” and said he was willing to meet Chinese leaders, including Hu Jintao. In a gesture seemingly aimed at appeasing Beijing he said the independence was “out of the question” and Tibetans must learn to live “side by side” with Chinese. At one point he threatened to “resign” if the violence escalated. “If things get too out of control,” he said, his “only option is to completely resign”---which was interpreted to mean he would step down as political leader not spiritual leader.

But at the same time the Dalai Lama called the Chinese presence in Tibet “cultural genocide” and said that Tibetans had the right to air their grievances. The Dalai Lama seemed to be as shocked as anyone by the violence and the attacks on Chinese. He said, “We must oppose Chinese police, but not the Chinese. Not on a racist basis,” But not everyone shared this view, Tsewang Rigzin, head of the Tibetan Youth Congress, “I appeal to the protestors in Tibet to continue in their protest until China gets out of Tibet.”

Chinese Take on the Events in Tibet

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To many Chinese the riots in Lhasa were brutal, unprovoked attack on innocent Chinese. Many Chinese were upset by the way the events were covered in the foreign press: asking why sympathies were with the Tibetans when it was Han Chinese who were the victims and the ones who died. They were angry by images on television of Tibetans attacking Chinese in Lhasa and furious with police for cowering behind their shields and not fighting back.

Many ordinary Chinese supported Beijing’s hardline position on Tibet so much so that anything less than a tough crackdown in Tibet would have been perceived as weak. One 53-year-old office worker told the New York Times , “We couldn’t believe our government was being so weak and cowardly. The Dalai Lama is trying to separate China and it is not acceptable at all. We must crack down on the rioters.” On the Internet one posting read, “Our government should take a bloody suppression on these separatists!”

On the Internet some Chinese said that a “people’s war” should be mounted against the Tibetans. “People’s war” is a phrase that was used in the Cultural Revolution. What enraged many Chinese was the timing. Just as China was preparing to step in to the spotlight for its moment if glory, the Olympics, the Tibetans put a damper on things with their riots.

In April, the Chinese government said that Dalai Lama and his supporters were planning to use suicide squads to carry out attacks. According to a government spokesman, “To our knowledge, the next plan of the Tibetan independence forces is to organize “dare-to-die” corps to launch violent attacks.” The evidence was based on information revealed from an arrested member of the “Dalai Lama clique.” The Tibetan government in exile quickly dismissed the charges and insisted the Dalai Lama was a “man of peace.”

In a speech in mid April, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that the trouble in Tibet was purely an internal affair that threatens China’s sovereignty. “Our problem with the Dalai Lama clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, not a human rights problem. It is a problem either to safeguard national unification or to split the motherland.”

Analysts saw little hope of the Chinese government backing down or easing up. Rebecca MacKinnon, a professor at Hong Kong University, told the Washington Post, “The regime will go more on the offensive. Sovereignty and control is more important than international image..” The crackdown is a ‘sign to other opposition group that this is what happens to them is you make problems."

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dead Tibetans in Ngaba

Some have argued that the response of the international community hurt the Tibetan cause more than it helped, insistimg that the reaction only stirs up nationalist and anti-Tibetan feelings among ordinary Chinese who in turn have demanded a tough response to the Tibetan problem.

Anti-French and Anti-CNN Protests and the Tibetan Uprising in 2008

Nationalist rage was directed at France over what happened at the torch relay in Paris and suggestions that French President Sarkozy might boycott the Olympics opening ceremony. Internet sites lit up with calls for the boycott of French goods and the Carrefore Department stores, which were accused of funding Tibetan groups. Demonstration were held outside Carrefour stores In Xian, Wuhan, Hefei. Kunming, Changsha, Fuzhou, Shenyang, Harbin and Jilin. Some held signs the read “Oppose Tibetan Independence, Support the Olympics” and “Say No to French Goods.”

Anger was also directed at CNN for running misleading photographs and a comment by commentator Jack Cafferty calling Chinese goods “junk” and saying Chinese leaders were “a bunch of goons and thugs.” Chinese-Americans staged a large rally outside CNN offices in Hollywood demanding that Cafferty be fired and Chinese lawyers sued CNN in a Beijing court on the grounds that Cafferty’s remarks violated the dignity and reputation of the Chinese people..

Image Sources: Tibet Uprising.org

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2010

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