Repression won’t help Beijing any longer

The self-immolation of a second Tibetan monk in a span of five months in the south-western Chinese province of Sichuan which is home to a large section of the community has once again put the spotlight on the Communist Party’s repressive behaviour towards the country’s ethnic minority.
This past Sunday when 29-year-old Tsewang Norbu doused himself with gasoline and set himself ablaze in the centre of Daofu, a town located in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garzê, crying out for the freedom of his people and for the return of the exiled Dalai Lama to Tibet, his actions served as a somewhat vile but nonetheless true reflection of how deep runs Tibetan dissatisfaction of Han-majority Chinese leadership. It is no secret that the Chinese leadership has dealt with Tibetan demands for greater autonomy with an iron hand, and historically responded by rubbishing voices of minority dissent. Yet it is precisely this kind of an indifferent response that has done little to resolve the long festering dispute; one that has only grown more malevolent in recent years as Chinese authorities have cracked down severely on any form of protest while Tibetans reaching a breaking point have become increasingly defiant. For example, in March when a 16-year-old monk self-immolated to protest against increased Chinese repression, authorities responded by detaining several of his fellow monks and increasing surveillance at his monastery. That of course did not deter Tibetan monks from attempting to celebrate the birthday of the Dalai Lama in July. They then had to pay a heavy price for such a show of absolute defiance as police put monasteries across the region under a virtual siege that ultimately produced the tinderbox situation in which Tsewang Norbu set himself on fire.

Clearly, a vicious circle of self-destructive events has been set in motion. To break out of it, it is imperative that Chinese authorities stop trying to sweep the dispute under the carpet by ignoring Tibetan concerns. Instead, it would be better advised to return to the negotiating table with an open mind and resolve the issue amicably with the Tibetan leadership, which is essentially asking for greater regional autonomy within the borders of the People’s Republic of China. Considering that there already exists a framework for an Autonomous Tibetan Region, resolving the ongoing dispute is effectively about ironing out differences between the two communities. For this, Chinese authorities need to better consider Tibetan grievances. That off late they have shown greater respect for popular demands in other parts of the country — most recently in Dalian wherefrom they relocated a chemical plant after public protests — should be taken as a positive sign for the fact that the emerging superpower is atleast headed in the right direction.

PS- originally published on August, 17, 2011 by The Pioneer

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