Olympic Torch Lit March 24, 2008Posted by Philip Ryan in Dalai Lama, News, Tibet.
Will Tibet unrest deter foreign investment in the region? The Wall Street Journal dryly observes:
Even before this month’s riots in Tibet, foreign investors found reasons to bypass what is a tiny market in the Himalayas with a big public-relations problem.
Tibet differs in many ways from the rest of China, with its lower income, population and education levels, as well as the open landscape and the colorful dress of its people. One stark disparity is Tibet’s inability to attract foreign investment, which some analysts say is likely to worsen and contribute to the simmering unrest.
The Olympic flame is lit in Greece, and the death toll in Tibet stands at 130, says the Melbourne Herald Sun. Worries that the “unrest” in Tibet might overshadow the glorious festivity marking the beginning of the Olympic season (when the ancient Greek city-states would suspend their various wars) seem to be justified.
So how is China handling the world spotlight?
There was never much doubt that China’s critics would come together to air their grievances – the nation’s first Olympic Games this summer provided too tempting a global spotlight.
What remained largely up to speculation, until now, was how the government would react to internal dissent and outside criticism.
The military crackdown on Tibetan protesters in three provinces has shown that, if nothing else, China does not intend to appear weak before its critics.
The violence has injured at least 623 people, and China says 22 people have been killed, denying claims by Tibetan exile groups that 99 have died. The official Xinhua news agency said 194 people have surrendered for their role in riots in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, which began on the March 10 anniversary of the 1959 uprising in Tibet against Communist rule.
And were China’s security forces brutally efficient as things got out of hand in Lhasa? Seems not (though they’re on their game now):
In the chaotic hours after Lhasa erupted March 14, Tibetans rampaged through the city’s old quarter, waving steel scabbards and burning or looting Chinese shops. Clothes, souvenirs and other tourist trinkets were dumped outside and set afire as thick gray smoke darkened the midday sky. Tibetan fury, uncorked, boiled over.
Foreigners and Lhasa residents who witnessed the violence were stunned by what they saw, and by what they did not see: the police. Riot police officers fled after an initial skirmish and then were often nowhere to be found. Some Chinese shopkeepers begged for protection.
“The whole day I didn’t see a single police officer or soldier,” said an American woman who spent hours navigating the riot scene. “The Tibetans were just running free.”
Lhasa is now occupied by thousands of paramilitary police officers and troops of the People’s Liberation Army. But witnesses say that for almost 24 hours, the paramilitary police seemed unexpectedly paralyzed or unprepared, despite days of rising tensions with Tibetan monks.
The absence of police officers emboldened the Tibetan crowds, which terrorized Chinese residents, toppled fire trucks and hurled stones into Chinese-owned shops. In turn, escalating violence touched off a sweeping crackdown and provided fodder for a propaganda-fueled nationalist backlash against Tibetans across the rest of China that is still under way.