10 Mar 2009

Tibet: 50th anniversary of the uprising

ReutersToday is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese, when the Dalai Lama was forced to flee across the mountains into India.

Sorry, I’ll rephrase that after consulting today’s edition of the People’s Daily. Today is the 50th anniversary of “Democratic reform and serfs emancipation in Tibet“.

The Chinese government’s lack of subtlety on this issue never ceases to amaze me. Last year, when Tibetans were protesting against Chinese rule, a senior offical declared that the Dalai Lama was “a jackal” with a “human face and the heart of a beast”.

Recently I’ve started to get emails from someone calling herself Yolanda Angelia. She uses phrases like “Dalai Lama clique” and asserts that Tibetans live “a joyous and peaceful life,” so I think I know who Yolanda is.

Today a co-opted Living Buddha in Beijing declared, “Tibetan people are enjoying a stable and peaceful life and a small group of reactionaries and secessionists have already lost their social foundation and been isolated.”

Well, if everything is so peaceful and happy, foreigners should be welcome to visit. Alas, this is not the case.

Tibet has been closed to vistors since Tibetan New Year a couple of weeks back, and my former collagues from the Beijing press corps are playing cat-and-mouse with the police all over the Tibetan parts of China, as they try to report the heightened security presence and few small attempts at protest.

Interestingly, the official government tourism website www.chinaview.cn has this piece of advice for visitors:

“The first rule when applying for a visa as an independent traveler is to expect that you will be refused a visa if you mention plans to visit Tibet. There is a trick that when you apply for the Chinese visa, you can’t tell the officer that you have the plan for traveling to Tibet; you can only inform them you want to travel to somewhere else of China. Or else the application would become complicated and arduous.”

It goes on to advise you to apply for a permit to visit Tibet once you’re in China. Which you’ll probably get, if you wait until everyone’s finished celebrating 50 years of democracy and freedom from serfdom.

Report from Beijing on last year’s protests (19 March 2008)

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