China’s ethnic policies led to Tibet riots
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rioting in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, has spread to neighboring areas.
Tibetan exiles across the world have staged protests, damaging China’s image abroad ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games to be held in August.
It is ironic that the riots occurred when the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, is in session until Tuesday because the parliament had made social harmony, including harmony among ethnic groups, one of the main themes of the annual session.
The latest riots could be considered the product of China’s failed policy toward Tibet.
The Chinese authorities announced that 13 people were killed and 61 policemen were injured in rioting in Lhasa, while the Tibetan government-in-exile gave different figures, putting the death toll at 80 and the number of injured at 72 as of Sunday night.
The Tibetan government-in-exile called for an independent international investigation team to be sent to Tibet, a suggestion that was immediately rejected by Beijing. China apparently does not want to let the international community know the real situation in Tibet.
History of violence
There have been many clashes between the security authorities and Tibetan residents since the 14th Dalai Lama sought asylum in Dharmsala, India, in March 1959 following the Tibet rebellion.
Hu Jintao, who was reelected president during Saturday’s National People’s Congress session, oversaw an armed crackdown during the 1989 Lhasa revolt as party secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Since the mid-1990s, China’s policy toward Tibet has centered around economic and social development, symbolized by the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which opened two years ago between Golmud in Qinghai Province and Lhasa.
The Chinese government encouraged the ethnic Han majority to migrate to the region through commercial development and other projects. As a result, Chinese became the dominant language over Tibetan and the assimilation of Tibetans into the Chinese majority has progressed in the educational and cultural fields.
Attempts to assimilate
The Tibetan government-in-exile says Han people now outnumber Tibetans in the Tibetan-inhabited areas, including the Tibet Autonomous Region, which has a total population of about 2.8 million, due to China’s migration policy.
Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities have clamped down on monks and residents who took part in antigovernment activities, sent party and military personnel to temples and forced patriotic education as part of its efforts to repress Tibetan culture.
Also, in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which is China’s Achilles’ heel along with Tibet, the migration of Han people has been encouraged, triggering persistent resistance movements among the Uygur people.
The Dalai Lama dropped his demand for Tibetan independence in the 1990s and switched to a policy of seeking a “high level of autonomy” for Tibet.
China and the Tibetan government-in-exile have intermittently engaged in behind-the-scene dialogue.
The Chinese government should take the recent rioting as an opportunity to begin making concessions.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2008)
(Mar. 18, 2008)