Dialogue the only cure for torch, Tibet unrest
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Olympic torch relay for this summer’s Games has been marred by the actions of pro-Tibet demonstrators. Protests against the Chinese government’s crackdown in Tibet look set to escalate as the torch continues on its path toward Beijing.
To successfully carry out the Games–an event of peace–the Chinese government must restart talks with the exiled Tibet government as soon as possible.
The relay started April 1. In London and Paris, groups of exiled Tibetans and human rights activists resorted to disruptive tactics, with some trying to grab the torch and to block the relay run. However, these unruly protests will do little to whip up sympathy for the causes the demonstrators are championing.
The torch relay will move to San Francisco on Wednesday. After passing through several cities in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, the torch’s path will come to Nagano on April 26. Every possible measure must be taken to ensure that no unrest occurs as the torch is carried through the Japanese city.
The blame for this disgraceful situation that runs counter to the Games–a sporting event–rests with the Chinese side.
Hu standing firm
U.S. President George W. Bush held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, last month over the phone. In the conversation, the U.S. president expressed his concern over the Tibet situation and urged Hu to start “substantive dialogue” with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
However, the Chinese president responded by justifying the use of force in the crackdown in Tibet. Hu described the protests in Tibet as undisguised serious and violent crimes.
Tibet is calling for a “high level of autonomy,” not independence. Dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetan government-in-exile had been held intermittently in the past, but these talks have gone cold since last year.
Demonstrations are continuing in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and neighboring areas. Failure by the Chinese government to handle this smoldering tinderbox appropriately could end up casting a pall over the Beijing Games.
Leaders of such countries as Brazil, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Poland have already said they will stay away from the Aug. 8 opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
In China, patriotic nationalistic sentiments are becoming increasingly fervent. An Internet petition decrying recent anti-Beijing Games protests, including pledges not to attend the opening ceremony, collected 2.2 million signatures, mainly among young Chinese.
If these angry sentiments end up morphing into criticism directed toward the Beijing government, the fabric of Chinese society could start fraying.
The Dalai Lama supports Beijing’s hosting of the Olympic Games. He also has been quick to speak out against actions to disrupt the torch relay. The Buddhist spiritual leader also has gone to pains to say he was ready to have talks with the Chinese government.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will meet with Hu when the Chinese president makes a state visit to Japan next month. The Japanese government should use Hu’s visit as an opportunity to develop proactive diplomacy with China, to help bring stability to Tibet and to ensure the Beijing Games are a shining success.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 9, 2008)
(Apr. 9, 2008)