Will China Get Away With Murder Again?

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.


  1. Speaking of Hollywood Richard Gere is already making the rounds condemning the crackdown. However, I don’t think even Hollywood is going to be able to do much to help the Tibetans.

    What I am most interested in is what Lee Myung-bak’s reaction is going to be. If there is a country in the world that knows about unwanted occupations it is the Koreans. However will Lee have the moral courage to speak out against the unwanted occupation of Tibet?

    With all of Lee’s rhetoric about promoting human rights here is his chance.


  2. One of the worst things about this is how spineless everyone else in the world is over the issue. India is actively preventing “anti-China” protests being held on its soil. They are also forcibly stopping Tibetan refugees from voluntarily returning to their own country.

    Then there’s Nepal which seems perfectly content to resort to its historical status of being a Chinese client state. They too have sent riot police to violently disperse pro-Tibet protests without any official explanation.

    And the West is no better. The US has just taken China off the top 10 list of violaters of human rights. Everyone’s calling for restraint etc but making sure to placate the Chinese by acknowledging their stance that Tibet is part of China. Is China really so insecure that they need a verbal confirmation from Western governments each week that they don’t support an independent Tibet/Taiwan?

    Ultimately we have so much tied up in China that we can’t afford to mess them about. Britain says they always raise the topic of human rights when they meet with the Chinese – I can imagine how that conversation goes…

    “We are concerned about human rights practices in China…”
    “Human rights are the internal affairs of China and we are making steady improvements in the field.”
    “Great, let’s talk business and investment.”

    We have come to the point where China thinks it can just throw its weight around and be counted as a credible member of the international community. They actively threaten other sovereign nations with disruption in business and co-operation over international issues if their heads of state meet the Dalai Lama. That’s China actively telling us which world religious leaders we can and cannot see. We also ask China to provide assistance in Darfur and Burma since they fund these regimes but ultimately it look like China simply used Burma as a case study. A protest started by monks which grew to involve everyday people. It needs to be stopped but can’t involve a Tiananmen-style massacre.

    The international community should take a stand on this and show some backbone instead of kowtowing to a country which for centuries has held the belief that they are the most civilized people in the world and is only encouraged when global criticism to their actions amounts to the current whisper.