Olympic Torch Showcase Prompts Look at China and Tibet – Help with Amnesty International

Amnesty International Australia has called for an independent UN investigation into the recent unrest in Tibet, with the Chinese government sealing off the region to the world’s press. Due to the reported deaths in Tibet the Olympic torches global procession has now turned into an embarrassing showcase for the 2008 Beijing Games.

The Olympic torch relay started on May 2nd, and is planned to be arriving in Beijing on August 6th. In that time the torch will have travelled 137,000 miles around the globe, stopping in 21 nations in 6 continents. But what should be a symbol of worldwide unity has descended into a subject of mass protest against the Chinese Governments abuse of human rights in Tibet. The “Get China out of Tibet” campaign has been around for many years but few people know what is actually about.

The History of China’s Rule of Tibet

The unrest between China and Tibet has been ongoing for over half a century. In 1949, Tibet was seen as a peaceful land and an independent state from China. In the same year, the newly formed Communist Party, the ‘Peoples Republic of China’ (PRC) held talks with Tibetan officials in Indian to discuss China’s plans to control Tibet’s national defence. Also, the PRC demanded that Tibet be officially acknowledged as a part of China. The Tibetan Government refused to comply with these sanctions and the neutral ground discussions were terminated.

On October 7 in 1950, China’s Red Army sent 40,000 soldiers to attack the Tibetan frontier in six places simultaneously. They easily overwhelmed the small Tibetan territorial army of 8,000 in two days, killing half of Tibet’s troops. With China’s devastation of Tibet’s inadequate army, the once peaceful country had no other choice but to negotiate with the PRC. During these meetings Tibetan officials were intimidated with violent threats and taken captive. The Tibetan officials signed the “Agreement of the Central People’s Government for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” However, their agreement was unofficial and did not bind either the Dalai Lama or Tibet’s government. Even though the PRC knew this, they still carried out a ceremonial signing and revealed to the world that the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” was successful. The Chinese military forces were then allowed to occupy Tibet and also to control their foreign dealings. This agreement also allowed Tibet’s own government to remain, and the country would still be religiously independent. On September 9, 1951, 3,000 Chinese soldiers entered the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, with another 20,000 troops being prepared for occupation. Though assurances of religious freedom remained, 9 months after the treaty was signed the Tibetan people started their first resistance against the Chinese.

In the last 60 years over 1 million Tibetans have been killed in battles, with over 6,000 religious buildings being destroyed.

On March 10th 2008, what began as a peaceful protest by orange robed monks to commemorate a failed uprising in 1959, turned into chaos. Over 4,000 Tibetans gathered to call for the Dalai Lama to be returned to power from his exile in India. China have since accused the Dalai of organising the demonstration (the largest and most sustained for 20 years) to press for Tibetan independence ahead of the Olympics, though the Dalai Lama himself claims not to be seeking full independence at all.

On the 4th day of the demonstration the Chinese government ordered a crackdown on the demonstrators, with vicious fighting spreading across the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. Hugely differing reports of the number killed during the fighting have been released, with China claiming a mere 19 people to Tibet’s 140. Chinese police have claimed to have caught more than 800 people involved in the Lhasa violence, with another 280 people allegedly turning themselves in. 15 Tibetan monks have also been detained, though their current whereabouts is unknown. All national information received from Tibet is being censored by Chinese authorities, with all foreign journalists barred from the country since the unrest.

The violence in Lhasa has created a political time bomb for the Chinese government as Beijing prepares to play host to the Olympic Games in August. Global outrage at China’s reaction and use of lethal force to quell the Tibetan demonstrations has seen huge condemnation of their staging of the Olympics. The traditional running of the torch has come under heavy disruption from protestors across the globe, with a number of previously organised participants dropping out due to safety fears, and also in rejection to the Chinese government’s handling of Tibet and other human rights issues.

During protests in London, ex-Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq had the torch ripped from her grasp by a protestor.

The 17-mile torch relay in Paris finally dissolved into cancellation, with the torch being extinguished 4 times by human rights demonstrators. 3 human rights activists climbed part of the Eiffel Tower to hang anti Communist banners, whilst 3 activists raised flags from the cables of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in protest. With similar action planned for all the stops on the torch’s world tour, the Chinese government must now be regretting their decision to stage the longest torch relay in Olympic history.

How can you help?

In China expressing your opinion can result in a jail sentence. Amnesty International fight for the non censoring of the media in China, and against the use of torture and the death penalty. Amnesty International Australia actively campaigns for freedom of expression and human rights in China. They are the world’s largest human rights organisation, and were founded in 1961. They currently have nearly 2 million members across 150 countries.

By donating to Amnesty International you can help their fight against the continued denial of expression and information, as they seek the publication of the truth from the government about practices not just in Tibet, but also in all parts of China.


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