[NOTE: This is the third time I’m writing this stupid story- twice now my computer has lost it’s internet connection after a lot of time spend writing without saving; I’m starting to get a bit frustrated here

OK, maybe the comparison to Paris is a bit dubious.  Nonetheless, the uprising that has been unfolding in Tibet over the last several days is truly amazing and inspiring.  Of course, it may be difficult for us Westerners to truly understand the context of these events, and who’s participating in the uprising.  

For some quick background, we need to know that spiritual persuits, monastic life, is for Tibetans what materialism is for us here in the U.S..  That said, we can begin to understand a bit of why it is that these protests have largely been led by Buddhist monks.  Most interesting- and what in my mind brought up comparisons to the events of Paris ’68, is that in the face of violent oppression from Chinese authorities against the monks, laypeople first followed by university students joined in the demonstrations.

Now, to be clear, Tibetans by and large are not protesting in the name of a (Western sense of) libertarian or socialistic revolution (as was the case in Paris).  Their society is very much based on their religion and is full of dominator hierarchies, inequality for women, a (very relativistic) class divide between poor laypeople and their spiritual leaders, and a complete lack of “democracy”.  This shouldn’t be glossed-over by Western leftists.  But they are a people living under the occupation and social/spiritual repression of an imperialist force (the Chinese).  Their head of State (and spiritual leader) the Dali Lama has, interestingly enough, suggested that the Tibetan people should put an end to many of these traditions and incorporate the democratic process into their system of governance by the Monasteries.  

 

For those who haven’t been following any of these events, CNN.com provides this timeline of the past few days in Chinese-occupied Tibet: 

-March 10: Hundreds of monks turn-out to protest Chinese occupation on the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising (which ultimately led to the exile of the Dali Lama to India).  Protesting the recent arrest of a group of monks who were celebrating the Dali Lama’s receipt of the U.S. Congressional Gold Metal, about 300 monks from the outskirts of Lhasa (the capital) attempt to peacefully march to the Center of the city but are stopped by the Chinese police; the apparent organizers and leaders of the march are arrested.  Then, 15 monks from Tsuklakhang Temple are joined by 2 laypeople and march to the center of Lhasa, along the way shouting pro-independence slogans, handing out literature and raising the Tibetan flag (all of which, including the flag itself, are outlawed).  They are quickly arrested and reportedly beaten.  Nearby shops are ordered closed by the police and armed troops are deployed to warn others throughout the city against joining the protests.  None of the detained monks have been seen or heard from since.  As word quickly spreads, over 130 monks in Qinghai Province (which borders Tibet) converge with over 200 laypeople outside a government building and shout pro-Dali Lama slogans.  Police stop the protest and no one is reported arrested.  Chinese officials convene an emergency meeting with monks in Qinghai Province, but 70 of them walk out carrying a portrait of the Dali Lama (which is banned) and shouting pro-independence slogans.

-March 11:  Hundreds of monks from the Sera Monastery show-up to protest, demanding the release of those arrested and shouting pro-Tibet slogans.  Riot police use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

-March 12: 100 nuns from the West side of Lhasa peacefully march towards the city center but police forces turn them back.  Meanwhile, 30 miles East monks at Gaden Monastery launch a protest; police surround and seal of the monastery.

-March 13:  The same group of nuns attempt again to march- they have not been see  or heard from since.  Later, two monks from Kirti Monastery in Sichuan Province stab themselves in the chest, hands, and wrists.  They were said to protesting the arrest of 17 monks from the Sera Monastery on Monday (3/10).  They have been taken to a nearby hospital and are not expected to live.  Other monks at the same Monastery are staging a hunger strike.  By the end of the day, 500 students at Tibet University have been arrested.

-March 14:  Monks from Ramoche Temple attempt to launch yet another protest march but police seal off the streets and prevent it.  Laypeople join in and fighting ensues.  Reports are of widespread rioting, with more than 1,000 people in the streets hurling rocks at police, and setting fire to vehicles and shops owned by ethnic Chinese who have moved to Tibet since the occupation.  CNN.com is also reporting that telephones and electricity have been shut-off in Lhasa.  Meanwhile, at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, India, at least one person was beaten by police, several arrested, and dozens chased away as they protested in solidarity with their friends and family of Tibet, shouting pro-Tibet slogans and waving the Tibetan flag.

Tibetan exiles living in India are reporting that at least 100 people have been killed so far, with hundreds missing and there whereabouts unknown; Chinese officials put the number dead at 10.  Exiled Tibetans in India (primarily in North New Delhi and Dharmsala) have now been encircled in their neighborhoods by Indian police and are being prevented from leaving.  Protesters who had otherwise been planning a march from the exiled Tibetan government’s offices in Dharmsala to the border of Tibet- a march to protest the plight of the Tibetans and confront Chinese officials ahead of the upcoming Beijing Olympics- have largely been arrested or put under house arrest by Indian officials.

The Chinese State has, as is usually the case, completely censored the media.  Western journalists requesting access to Tibet have  been entirely ignored, and their Beijing offices are reporting that the vast majority of Chinese people have no idea what is happening (most all internet sites mentioning the protests have been blacked out, along with cable news channels).  Some of the only images available can be seen here and here.

How things in Tibet, and India, progress over the next couple of days remains to be seen.

[Updates] 

-March 15: 6 demonstrators have been arrested in New York in front of the United Nations building; 3 have been arrested in Sydney; at least 20 demonstrators have been arrested in Katmandu; tear-gas was used to break-up a pro-Tibet really in the Swiss city of Zurich; and un-confirmable reports suggest that demonstrations and rioting are continuing in Lhasa– the Chinese government has imposed strict curfews and given Tibetan demonstrators until Monday to “turn themselves in” as they “show constraint” against the protests, which many are calling the most significant (and violent) in all of China since 1989’s Tinnaman Square

-March 16: With untold thousands of Chinese troops now moved into Lhasa and other areas there seems to be a lull (or end) to the demonstrations within Tibet.  Free Radio Asia (run by the U.S.) is reporting that police opened fire on demonstrators in the heavily Tibetan Provinces of Sichuan (with at least seven people confirmed dead as they threw Molotov cocktails at police forces) and Gansu (where at least eight are dead following demonstrations of 5,000 strong).  This is hard to confirm, as the entire region as well as all media access in and out of the area has been cut-off entirely.  Drastically increased numbers of troops have also been placed on the China-Nepal border, and at the Chinese’s request the Nepalese government has done the same on their side of the border, which is often heavily traveled by Tibetans seeking asylum.  An unknown number of websites (most notably Youtube.com, and presumably this site as well) are still being blacked-out throughout China.

-March 17: At this point, it’s nearly impossible to keep-up with all the activities happening worldwide.  Literally, hundreds of cities around the world have been reporting pro-Tibetan demonstrations.  Quite a large number of these are ending with arrests and violence.  While little news is leaking out of Tibet and neighboring Chinese Provinces (the army is said to be going door-to-door arresting anyone they deem “suspicious” across a region larger than Texas), China is complaining that it’s diplomatic embassy’s the world-over have become targets for protesters.  In Toronto, demonstrators scaled the Chinese consulate and replaced the Chinese flag atop the building with a Tibetan one; in London and Munich, in SydneyNew York, and New Delhi protesters clashing with police, throwing rocks at the building, and smashing windows were the rule more than the exception.  ChicagoBelarus, Brussels, Washington, Prague, and literally hundreds of other cities across the planet are reporting vigils and demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Tibet and against the government of China.  And it’s being reported that overnight, 50 very brave student demonstrators held a pro-independence rally in Beijing.

Advertisements