- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Two days of vigorous anti-Chinese protests by Tibetans and their Indian sympathizers culminated last Thursday in New Delhi when 17,000 policemen and soldiers allowed Olympic torch bearers to run in lonely splendor through nearly deserted streets.

The India Express newspaper said the capital had been turned into a “security citadel.” The Hindustan Times said members of parliament accused the government of setting up a “police camp.” A Times of India headline stated: “Cops kill spirit to keep torch burning.”

Instead of the image of progress China wanted to project, security arrangements to subdue demonstrations against Chinese suppression of Tibetans reinforced an impression of China as an authoritarian state. Moreover, protests are likely to continue along three parallel paths until the Olympics open in Beijing in August.

The first will follow the Olympic torch as it wends its way through Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam — but not in dictatorial North Korea. Chinese handling of protests will probably be tested in Hong Kong and Macau in early May and in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and in western China in June.

Second, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual and political leader, has an extensive speaking schedule in the United States, India, Germany, Britain, Australia, and the U.S. again in coming months. Particularly in Germany during May, he plans to speak on human rights, a core issue in the dispute between Tibetans and Chinese.

Lastly, the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement, or TPUM, formed by five expatriate Tibetan organizations in January, will continue seeking the end of what its members, mostly younger Tibetans, call China’s “colonial occupation” of their country. They demand the summer Olympics be canceled.

All this will confront President Bush with a decision on whether to attend the opening ceremony of the games. The issue has seeped into the presidential election campaign with Democrats, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, urging the president not to go.

Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate, has said the president should not attend the opening ceremony unless the Chinese opened a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Mr. Bush has insisted he will go but that could change as his choice is sharpened. He could appear to condone or to condemn China’s crackdown on Tibetans.

The torch relay, the longest in Olympic history, was intended to draw worldwide attention to the Beijing Olympics, China’s economic achievements, and the rule of the Communist Party. The idea of carrying the torch through other nations was promoted by the Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler in 1936.

Instead, this year’s torch relay has turned into a nightmare of anti-Chinese demonstrations, deception over routes, and anger at the tactics of Chinese “escorts” believed to be members of the People’s Armed Police. After they roughed up demonstrators in London, the usually circumspect Economist magazine called them “thugs.”

Next weekend in Japan, runners are scheduled to carry the torch through Nagano, site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. But Buddhist monks have withdrawn their Zenkoji temple as the run’s starting point to protest Chinese treatment of Tibetan monks; protesters say they will raise banners along the route but not confront runners; and a closing festival has been canceled.

The National Policy Agency, special riot police, the prefectural government, local police, and 1,200 private citizens and city employees will be mobilized for security. The National Police Agency has said Chinese security escorts will not be permitted to run alongside the torch bearers.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to finish a 10-day stay in the U.S. tomorrow with an address billed as one of a series of lectures by global leaders at Colgate University. His topic, “The Art of Happiness” comes, ironically, at an unhappy time for many Tibetans.

In May, the Dalai Lama plans to deliver three lectures in Germany certain to stir wide interest, given the allegations that China has suppressed Tibetan human rights. They are titled: “Human Rights and Globalization”; “Peace and Human Rights”; and “Human Rights as Commitment: Lessons From History.”

In a fourth talk, the Dalai Lama plans to address “Religion —Peacemaker or Warmonger?”

On the third path, the Tibet People’s Uprising Movement has vowed to continue protesting. A spokesman for the Tibetan Youth Congress, a member of uprising movement, told an Indian news agency: “We want the entire world to know about the Chinese atrocity in Lhasa.”

Richard Halloran is a free-lance writer and former New York Times correspondent based in Honolulu.


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