Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lhasa Riots on Tape


Tibetans in Lhasa riot, caught on tape by Australian journalist:
Will China be able to save face in time for the Olympics? Or will de facto martial law be imposed like in 1989?

More from the AP:

Beijing has learned a lot about controlling unrest since 1989. While China contained the fallout from crushing Tibet protests that year, its bloody quelling of the democracy demonstrators in central Beijing stigmatized the government and set back the economy for several years.

The government has since poured resources into building up police and paramilitary riot squads. Protests have become commonplace in China in the past decade, by workers laid-off from restructuring, bankrupt state industries and farmers displaced from their land by development. Police have developed a play book for dealing with these incidents - keep the protesters in a confined area, defuse the situation with payoffs or promises, and settle scores later.

Beijing has tried to stanch unrest and buy Tibetans' loyalty in recent years by investing billions of dollars in the region, lavishing spending on infrastructure projects.

Yet the flood of Chinese migrants that money brought and ever tightening restrictions on Buddhist observances left Tibetans feeling marginalized in their homelands. The riot-control plans that have proved so effective elsewhere in China also seemed to fail on March 14, as Tibetans briefly seized parts of Lhasa.

With foreign governments holding off calls for a real boycott and independent media given little access to Tibet, there are worries that China will resort to quick brutal measures, leaving Tibetans more angry and alienated.

"There's a number of people outside in the free world who also believe China's hopes for the Olympics is a window of opportunity. I believe it's a window of opportunity," said Lodi Gyari, an aide to the Dalai Lama who conducted a fitful dialogue with Chinese officials that broke off in 2006. "The Chinese themselves have created this global image. Tibet is precisely the image they wanted to avoid."

And that is the reason why I don't think China will be as violent in their reaction this time around.

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