Let us allow Tibetan to cross over into Tibet to fight for their autonomy.
Satbir Singh Bedi | 24 Mar 2008
Champa Phuntsok gave the official death toll at a news conference called to explain the response to the largest anti-government protests in almost two decades, which have thrown an international spotlight on China's human rights record as it prepares for the Beijing Olympics.
The toll was an update over the government's previous figure of 10 killed.
Champa Phuntsok, an ethnic Tibetan installed as governor by the Communist government in Beijing, described 13 of the dead as "innocent civilians," and said another three people died jumping out of buildings to avoid arrest. He said dozens of people were injured.
A week of protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa culminated in violence on Friday when Tibetans attacked ethnic Chinese and torched their shops. Unconfirmed reports from Tibetan exile groups say the violence on Friday and ensuing government crackdown may have left as many as 80 people dead.
The government has said the violence was engineered by the government in exile of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, though it has provided no evidence of that.
"Calm has returned to Lhasa and society has returned to a state of normality," Champa Phuntsok said.
"This was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique and it was created under the collusion of Tibet independence separatist forces both inside and outside China," he said without giving any details.
"Those activities were aimed at splitting the country, were aimed at undermining ethnic community and undermining social harmony and stability in Tibet."
In a sign of the seriousness of the situation, Tibet's hardline Communist Party secretary Zhang Qingli - the region's most powerful official - returned to Lhasa over the weekend and met with security forces, the official Tibet Daily newspaper said. Zhang had been attending the national legislature's annual session in Beijing, which ends Tuesday.
The Tibet Daily quoted Zhang as saying security forces "carried out a frontal assault against the thugs" who rioted in Lhasa.
State television broadcast extensive footage of torched buildings and streets strewn with burned and looted goods, underscoring the government's drive to emphasize the destructive nature of the protests without discussing their underlying causes.
Speaking to reporters in India on Sunday, the Dalai Lama reiterated his commitment to non-violence but refused to condemn the protests and called for an international probe into the government crackdown.
Champa Phuntsok said that people were hacked and burned to death during the violence, and that the mob poured gasoline and set people on fire and cut a piece of flesh out of a policeman's buttocks.
He said the security forces used great restraint and did not carry or use weapons. He denied that 80 people had been killed.
The government has issued an end-of-Monday deadline for people involved in the violent protests to surrender, saying they would face severe punishment otherwise. Champa Phuntsok said he did not know if anyone had turned themselves in.
He said the People's Liberation Army was not involved until Sunday and Monday when they helped clean up Lhasa after the violence.
Over the weekend, the demonstrations widened from Lhasa to Tibetan communities in Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces, forcing authorities to mobilize security forces across a broad expanse of western China.
A witness in Sichuan province said Monday that government troops had moved into a county in Aba prefecture, where clashes between monks and police broke out on Sunday with reports of as many as seven killed.
"There are troops that moved in Maerkang County," said a clerk at the Jinchuan Hotel, who asked not to be further identified.
"There is regulation from our higher authorities that the media should not cover this. We will provide detailed information when it is quelled," said the man who refused to give his name.
Complicating Beijing's task, the protests fall two weeks before China's celebrations for the Beijing Olympics kick off with the start of the torch relay, which will pass through Tibet.
The president of the International Olympic Committee expressed concern on Sunday about the crackdown in Tibet and neighbouring provinces.
"We are very concerned," Jacques Rogge told reporters during a one-day visit to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.
Rogge has flatly rejected the idea of boycotting the Summer Games in Beijing over the violence in China, saying it would only penalize athletes.
The unrest in Tibet began March 10 on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule of the region. Tibet was effectively independent for decades before communist troops entered in 1950.
According to another news item dated 27.2.2008 in the Times of India, it has become a do-or-die situation for many of the monks and ordinary Tibetans who have participated in both the peaceful demonstrations and violence that rocked Lhasa over the past few days.
Some of them may try to escape to neighbouring provinces with large Tibetan population and possibly sneak into India, a source said.
The Indian government may come under greater pressure from Beijing to ensure that none of the protesters cross the mountain border from Tibet. At present, the Chinese pressure on New Delhi is restricted to ensuring that the Dharmasala-based Tibetans don't cross over to Tibet. Many of the protesters in Lhasa would ignore the Monday midnight deadline for surrendering to the authorities, who have sweetened the offer by promising leniency to those who surrender.
"The Communist Party has infiltrated most of the major monasteries. It knows almost everything about the lives of the monks. Surrendering would not save them from future reprisal by the authorities," a human rights activist told TOI.
Those who don't surrender and manage to escape arrest might plan more demonstrations and agitations in the future. The Chinese government, which has started house-to-house searches, is expected to make sure that none of the demonstrators escape the police net.
The last few days of demonstrations have seen monks and believers of different sects and monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism coming together to fight what they regard as imposition on their way of life, a source said.
"Those who joined the uprising are marked men, who may find it difficult to live peacefully among their Han Chinese neighbours in future," the activist said. Many of them would prefer to continue the fight instead of surrendering to the authorities.
Most of the important posts in the Communist Party in Tibet are held by Han Chinese politicians, who have been deputed by the party leadership to work in the region. Though ethnic Tibetans are increasingly getting political positions, the community remains largely alienated from the party.
It appears that the Government of India is proposing to seal the border with China so as not to allow Tibetans living in India to cross over into Tibet to fight for their autonomy. This move is not the right move because unlike any State of the Indian Union e.g., West Bengal, Tibet is not part of China as such but is only an autonomous region of China. So, India should allow Tibetans to go into Tibet to protect their autonomy. In this connection, it may be mentioned that China has of late been trying to convert Tibetans into Chinese by enforcing marriages between Tibetans and Chinese. Dalai Lama has referred to it as "Cultural Genocide" of the Tibetans.
The Chinese also want to divert the Brahmaputra river of Tibet and India which is the lifeline of Tibet to other provinces of China. Thus China is trying to convert Tibet from an autonomous region under China to a part and parcel of China. In this regard, it may be stated that we have only agreed to suzerainty of China over Tibet and not to sovereignty of China over the latter. So, it would be in the fitness of thing that we allow Tibetans to cross over into Tibet to fight for their autonomy.