Chinese security forces opened fire on Tibetan protesters Monday, killing at least one person, Tibetan activists have reported to the Los Angeles Times. The news comes on the heels of the annual Human Rights Watch report, which criticized China for repression in ethnic minority areas such as Tibet:
The situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the neighboring Tibetan autonomous areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan province, remained tense in 2011 following the massive crackdown on popular protests that swept the plateau in 2008. Chinese security forces maintain a heavy presence and the authorities continue to tightly restrict access and travel to Tibetan areas, particularly for journalists and foreign visitors. Tibetans suspected of being critical of political, religious, cultural or economic state policies are targeted on charges of “separatism.”
The government continues to build a “new socialist countryside” by relocating and rehousing up to 80% of the TAR population, including all pastoralists and nomads.
The Chinese government has given no indication it would accommodate the aspirations of Tibetan people for greater autonomy, even within the narrow confines of the country’s autonomy law on ethnic minorities’ areas. It has rejected holding negotiations with the new elected leader of the Tibetan community in exile, Lobsang Sangay, and warned that it would designate the next Dalai Lama itself.
In August, Sichuan authorities imposed heavy prison sentences on three ethnic Tibetan monks from the Kirti monastery for assisting another monk who self-immolated in protest in March. Ten more Tibetan monks and one nun had self-immolated through mid-November, all expressing their desperation over the lack of religious freedom.
Human Rights Watch has also complained in the past that as China rises as an economic force, global powers have shied from calling the country to task on its human rights record. For instance, when imprisoned Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did not call for his release; he praised China for its economic advances.
The issue of whether the United States is too soft on China when it comes to human rights even popped up in the Republican debate Monday night in Florida, when Rick Santorum was asked whether the U.S. would take a different tack on trade with China if, like Cuba, a strong lobby of dissidents lived in a politically important state like Florida. Santorum said the key difference was that Cuba was so close to the U.S.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Tibetan novice monks in Dharmsala, India, participate in a candlelight vigil Tuesday to protest violence by Chinese police against demonstrators in Tibet. Credit: Angus McDonald / Associated Press