The Riots in Lhasa
by Eirik Granqvist, a foreign expert in Shanghai who visited Tibet in 2006
"The western medias announced that China had cut all information and that articles about the riots could not be sent out! I got mad about all the apparently incorrect information and wrote this article and two other similar ones although I am not a journalist but just because I could not stand all the bad things about China that was told. I sent them by e-mail without problems and they arrived well but two newspapers did neither respond neither publish what I had written. The third answered and wanted a shorter version that was published many days later as a normal 'readers voice'. What Dalai Lama had said was largely published every day together with a real anti-China propaganda. What I had written was apparently too China friendly for the 'free press'."
I was very shocked by what I had seen in the television and been reading in China daily about the riots in Lhasa. The most that shocked me was anyhow may be not the cruel events by themselves but how the medias in my country of origin, Finland, reported the events. A friend has scanned and sent me articles and I have checked also myself what can be found at Internet.
Very few Finnish people have ever visited Tibet, but I was there together with my wife in 2006. This was private persons and not as a part of a group-travel. I have seen Lhasa with my own eyes. I have been talking and chatting with people there. This was without any restrictions. Okay, we had a lovely and very competent guide that helped us much and took us where we wanted to go in the mornings but in the afternoons we were alone. Therefore I think that I have something to tell.
I am also interested in history and know more than people in general. When writing this, I do not have any reference books so I write out of my memory. If I do a small mistake somewhere, I beg your pardon. Anyhow, I think that this gives my writing an objectivity. I am well aware of that I will be accused for this and that for writing what I think is the truth. I will be accused by those who think that they know but do not know and by those that haven't seen by their own eyes.
Tibet was for centuries an autonomous concordat between Nepal and China. Sometimes China ruled Nepal as well. The king of Tibet used therefore to have one Chinese wife and one Nepalese and then a number of Tibetan ones.
With the fifth Dalai Lama, the religious and the political power were unified under the rule of one person, The Dalai Lama. Tibet became a theocratic dictatorship and closed itself for the rest of the world. No foreigners were anymore allowed in.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the famous Swedish traveller Sven Hedin made an attempt to reach Lhasa but was sent politely back, out of Tibet by Dalai Lama.
A French woman, Alexandra David-Néel was more successful. She visited Lhasa dressed as a Tibetan pilgrim and she was fluent in the Tibetan language. She told how she was afraid many times that she should be discovered and then she knew that she like other suspects or opponents should "happen to fall down" from the walls of the Potala palace.
Tibet was not a paradise. Tibet was an inhuman dictatorship!
The weakened Chinese Qing Dynasty had more and more lost its influence in Tibet. Tibet became more and more interesting for the Russian empire in the north and the British in the south.
In 1903 a British army expedition directed by the colonel Younghusband reached Lhasa. The British lost 4 soldiers but slaughtered more the 700 Tibetans that tryed to stop them, mainly by magic. The British installed "a commercial representation" in Lhasa. The Chinese evacuated Dalai Lama to the Qinghai plateau where he hade limited rights of move, probably for preventing him from having contacts with the British occupants.
The Finnish national hero, Marshal Mannerheim, visited him there in 1907 during his famous horseback trip through central Asia. He was then a colonel in the Tsar Russian army and his trip was in reality a spy trip. Therefore the 13th Dalai Lama was interesting.
The power of Dalai Lama was weakened. In 1950 the PLA marched in to Tibet without war. The 14th Dalai Lama seems at the beginning to have accepted this just as a security for his power as the theocratic dictator he was. He enlarged and restructured the Norbulingka Summer Palace in a luxury way in 1954.
The Chinese decided anyhow to finish with the cruel theocratic dictatorship under which the opponents fell down from Potala. The borders where during this dictatorship closed for all foreigners and the only schools where the religious ones. It is well known that it is easier to rule a population with a low education and is ignoring the outside world. In Tibet, about 5% of the population owned everything and the rest literally nothing. About 40% of the Tibetans were monks and nuns living as parasites on the rest of the population that had to feed them. Tibet was not a paradise!
Now China decided that the Tibetans should have the same rights and place in the society as the rest of the country's population. The monasteries should be emptied from their excessively large monk and nun populations.
Tibet could earlier be reached only by some horse trails and was for the rest insulated. The Chinese built rapidly a trafficable road. The insulation was broken.
In 1959, the young Dalai Lama caused a peoples upraising, using the religion as power since he was loosing his own powerful position. The upraising was however stopped, may be in not a too clever and smooth manner. Dalai Lama then left Tibet and his fellow citizens and escaped to India wherefrom he has continued to fight for his come back and reinstall the theocratic dictatorship that China will never allow again.
Then followed the ten years of Cultural Revolution that was an unhappy time for all China that closed itself to the rest of the world.
Now Lhasa has a modern airport and a railway. China has invested a lot in Tibet. The standard of living has been raised a lot in Tibet and last Xmas I have seen Tibetans spending sun-holidays on Hainan Island! Very lucky looking old women in traditional dresses walking on the beach with their husbands and the youngsters dressed like other young people enjoying the beach life.
The possibilities for Dalai Lama to take back his power has diminished and he does not anymore have the population with him. China and India are developing their cooperation and with the closer friendship, India will for sure also not more admit Dalai Lama to disturb this development. His possibilities to act against China will be diminished.
Therefore he undertook recently an around the world diplomatic travel since he has seen the possibility of harming the now good international image of China and provoking boycotts of the Olympic games in Beijing.
The Lhasa riots where very well prepared. Curriers where crossing the borders illegally for to see Dalai Lama and get his orders. A group of foreign mountain climbers filmed recently across the border an unlucky incident when one of these curriers got shot and another that crossed the border openly declared that he wanted to go to see the Dalai Lama. I have seen that in television just before I left for China in November.
China is no longer a closed country. There is no need for illegal border crossings if you are not doing something illegally! You just ask for a passport and take the necessary visas and cross the border at a legal border crossing or better, just take a regular flight from Lhasa to Kathmandu!
There where no peaceful demonstrations in Lhasa that where brutally knocked down! Young men went to action after a well prepared scenario at many places at the same time so that police and fire brigade should be taken by surprise and unable to act everywhere at the same time. This was successful! People where just knocked down without differences and all what could be broken was broken in the shortest possible time. With Molotov cocktails, fires where lit and fire cars where stopped. 18 normal citizens where killed without feelings and one police. The police had order to not respond with firearms for not being internationally blamed!
When I have seen the filmed riots in television, my diagnosis was immediately clear. The scenario was the same that I had seen many times of organized riots in France since more the forty years of tight familiar contacts and 21 years of living there. The difference was only that less ordinary people seemed to take part in Lhasa. The rioters where surprisingly few but well organized! China's positive image in the world should be damaged!
Dalai Lama is acting as the friendly and peaceful father. This is an old trick that also dictators like Hitler and Stalin used. I am not comparing him with them but he is acting like a demon when he tries to take back his power at any cost, not once caring for human lives and against Buddhistic non-violence principles. It was a try to do a coup d'ètat that failed. Now he is asking for international help for to stop the violence that he, himself had planned!
When I visited Tibet in 2006, I was surprised by the relaxed atmosphere and the few policemen in Lhasa. All that I have seen were Tibetans. Not the Han-Chinese. The atmosphere was remarkably peaceful and gave a picture of general well living. There was no oppressed feeling like I had seen so many times in the Soviet Union and its satellites before all that non-human system collapsed. People in Lhasa where friendly and wanted to speak to me, mostly without success since I do not speak Chinese nor Tibetan but up and then somebody could speak some words in English. Their wish for contact was just out of normal curiosity towards the foreigners.
I had heard that the religious life should been oppressed but it was flowering! I had also heard that so many Han Chinese where moved in that the Tibetans where now very few in Lhasa. I did however see much more Tibetans there. May be that the Han Chinese where hiding?
The western medias announced that China had cut all information and that articles about the riots could not be sent out! I got mad about all the apparently incorrect information and wrote this article and two other similar ones although I am not a journalist but just because I could not stand all the bad things about China that was told. I sent them by e-mail without problems and they arrived well but two newspapers did neither respond neither publish what I had written. The third answered and wanted a shorter version that was published many days later as a normal "readers voice". What Dalai Lama had said was largely published every day together with a real anti-China propaganda. What I had written was apparently too China friendly for the "free press".