Friday, March 14, 2008

Rioting in Tibet

There are reports of rioting and two dead from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Tibet was an independent nation until invaded by the Chinese Communists in the 1950s. Political oppostion to the Chinese regime there has been nealry continuous and periodically explodes into violence. The Tibetan spirtiual leader, the Dalai Lama, escaped the Chinese government in 1959 and has led the political opposition from exile.

"U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia said troops using both live ammunition and tear gas fired on crowds torching vehicles and Chinese-owned shops in the center of the ancient capital of Lhasa. It said other reports put the death toll higher, but gave no figures."

The protest apparently started when Buddhist monks led an anniversary march commemorating the failed 1959 uprising against the Chinese, and spread among the population both in Lhasa and outside the city. The Dalai Lama and governments worldwide has called for the Chinese to show restraint in suppressing the protests, which are the largest uprisings in two decades. Accurate information is difficult to attain due to the close restrictions the Communist government imposes on foreigners travelling to the area.

The protests may have been precipitated by the government cracking down on the city's three largest monastaries after monks had launched hunger strikes. Tibetan opposition leaders and exiles believe that China can be pressured into making concessions due to the impending Olympic Games being held later this year in Beijing.

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