China may be the O.J. Simpson of thuggish regimes. Gutter thugs like the rulers of Sudan and Burma have justly earned their international pariah status after calculating that the consequences of slaughter would be manageable and acceptable. China’s regime has learned from Saudi Arabia’s example, lining its avenues of commerce with expensive lobbyists and P.R. firms, thus escaping most of the consequences of its behavior and even buying its way to quasi-legitimacy. But even the Chinese know that this strategy has limits.
Although the Chinese authorities have almost certainly managed to suppress the true body count — anywhere from 10 to 100 dead — the situation in Lhasa today sounds like a real slaughter. CNN says that “up to a third of the capital may be on fire.”
Channel 4 News calls this “the biggest show of defiance in Tibet for more than 20 years.”
A photo gallery:
What perfect timing, just days after the custodians of America’s values dropped China from the list of the world’s worst human rights violators, even as the regime is rounding up and beating up dissidents in China proper.
As with last year’s uprising in Burma, which was also crushed with Chinese ammunition, money, and backing, the Tibetan uprising grew from a protest by monks in their monasteries.
The Tibetans are attacking ethnic Chinese and burning their shops, which is both regrettable and inevitable. Ordinary ethnic Chinese in Lhasa aren’t personally responsible for the brutality of the regime and its police, but I can understand things I don’t condone. After all, the Chinese have forcibly occupied and colonized Tibet. The Tibetans can’t vote, speak, write, or publish their opinions. They have no peaceful or democratic recourse. China has therefore legitimized violent resistance against Chinese troops and police, but not against shopkeepers.
I see two acceptable alternatives to licensing China’s slow-motion Chinese genocide of Tibet. One is that some philanthropist will start shipping the Tibetans some decent sniper rifles. Or, China could allow the Dalai Lama’s calls to abstain from violence to be broadcast all over Lhasa, as a prelude to permitting them some non-violent avenue to self-rule.
And since neither of those things is going to happen, let’s hope the Tibetans take enough pictures of the massacres to come to completely f*ck up the Beijing Olympics and put a price tag on the regime’s brutality. China can’t get away with this. The Tibetans have what North Korean refugees in China don’t — Hollywood on their side.
Update: More pictures here.
Update 2: “Maybe China Shouldn’t Be Hosting the Olympics.” You don’t say. China and its PR firms are fond of saying that the Olympics shouldn’t be politicized, which is all you really can say if you can’t defend China’s behavior. Fine, then. Let’s have them in Taipei next time. Not only has China frequently politicized the Olympics in the past, much of Beijing’s preemptive brutality this year is being done for the specific purpose of making sure this year’s Olympics are dissent-free.
Update 3: More pictures here.