The Tibet Issue

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Recently, China has been in the media spotlight because of the unrest within Tibet. The Tibetans were protesting partly due to higher levels of inflation, which has resulted in many commodities such as food and consumer goods to become more expensive. Another reason is because of the changes to the democratic makeup of Tibet. This is being done by moving Han Chinese into Tibet. Recently, there has been a railway link from Tibet to the rest of China. This was suspected by Tibetans as a way to increase Chinese immigration to Tibet. The protests have come at a time when the Beijing Olympics is not far off. Some observers believe that protestors saw the Olympics as a way to gain some attention. The Tibetans started protesting on the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet 1959 which was led by the Dalai Lama. They protested peacefully at first. Later on they began to demand independence and turned violent. They turned violent due to rumours that police had arrested monks on charges of anti Chinese activities. The Tibetan protestors waged attacks on ethnic Han and Muslim Hui. It was also reported that these mobs particularly the youths were armed with traditional Tibetan swords to create an atmosphere of terror in Tibet. The rioters looted and destroyed businesses and homes that were owned by other ethnic groups. It was also reported that mosques attended by the Muslim minority in Tibet were burnt and destroyed. Later, the Chinese brought in the military to put an end to the violence in Tibet. Many of the protestors were then imprisoned for their activities. There have been rumours that over 100 Tibetans were killed in the protests. Many human rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the Chinese government for what they consider as ‘excessive force.’ However, I believe that human rights groups have been rather harsh in their criticisms of China. If a mob were to try and loot and burn your house, you are unlikely to let them steal your possessions and destroy your home. It is true that the Chinese may have overreacted, but this does not make the protest an innocent one as many innocent civilians were attacked and their property destroyed for no good reason. Despite the large coverage of this issue, western journalists were restricted from entering Tibet. Later on however, the Chinese decided to give journalists a limited tour in and around Tibet. Despite the anti Chinese bias in western media there are problems not just for Tibet but the rest of China. Firstly, religious freedom is limited. Those who aspire to become monks must go through a strict governmental process; this is to assure the Chinese that they will not take part in any anti governmental activity. Secondly the environmental degradation that is occurring is rather worrying. The pollution in some parts of China is so intense that respiratory disease such as asthma is becoming widespread. There are concerns in Tibet that increased industrial activity in Tibet may lead to land spoilage. However, despite all of this the Chinese have modernised Tibet. The GDP of Tibet in 2003 was 28 times greater than in 1978. The economy of Tibet has grown on an average 12% annually from the year 2000 to 2006. Education facilities have proliferated. There has been a vast development of transportation infrastructure such as roads and railways. There are also welfare programs which did not exist in Tibet before Chinese rule. My opinion on the Tibet issue would be that China should establish a dialogue with the Dalai Lama as this would be the first step in improving China’s image throughout the world. The Dalai Lama does not seek an independent Tibet, but a Tibet with broad autonomy whilst remaining part of China. I also believe that the Chinese Olympics should not be boycotted, as this is a sporting event and should not be politicised.