Crisis in Tibet that's embarrassing Olympic host

Sumantra Maitra


China is feeling the heat of the Free Tibet Campaign, just five months before the Olympic games in Beijing. Ongoing rioting, after five days of peaceful protest, was followed by a fierce Chinese military crackdown in the style that resembles the Tiananmen Square massacre.


The unofficial death toll resulting from the rioting and the subsequent military action is estimated to more than 100 in two days, though the Chinese official press report has calculated it to be nearer to 10.


India, which for the most part had been a strong advocate of the Tibetan cause and has given the Tibetan supreme leader the Dalai Lama, political asylum, are now suspiciously silent. This is probably due to the warming of relations between the two countries, resulting in commercial deals and joint military exercises.


Also, the ruling coalition of the Indian government has the huge support of the Communist Party of India, which is known to be pro-Chinese. So the Tibetan demonstrations from India have left the government embarrassed. This too at a time when two high profile visitors, the American House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood star and activist Richard Gere, are in New Delhi and are expected to express solidarity over the Tibetan cause.


In the meantime more than 100 Tibetan activists have left the Indian capital, despite barricades on the roads, to carry on their march to Tibet.


This incident of rioting is regarded as the biggest intelligence failure of communist China in the last 20 years. Chinese president Hu Jintao has taken stock of the situation and has vowed to  "prosecute" the criminals behind the violence.


Ironically, on Thursday and Friday, when Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was burning, Chinese members of parliament, were busy visiting venues of the Olympics, and attending meetings. But then these politicians have never really cared for the common people.