China has vowed to take the Olympic torch to Tibet despite deadly unrest in the region. The Chinese authorities have also said that the situation in Tibet is becoming more stable. Over the past week, Tibet has witnessed regular protests against Chinese rule. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama insists he is committed to resolving the issue in a non-violent way and has urged the Chinese authorities to resume dialogue.
Tibetan exiles protest in Berlin -- Germany freezes aid to China
Just months before the Beijing Olympics, China has once again come under severe international scrutiny. Recent unrest in Tibet and nearby areas has claimed at least 90 lives according to Tibetan exiles. The figure is disputed by China, which insists that the situation in the Himalayan region is under control and is returning to normalcy.
Georg Blume is a German journalist currently in Lhasa who has been able to witness the situation at first-hand: “For two or three days, people were not allowed to use cars. Even bicycles were forbidden on the streets. But now cars are running again, shopkeepers have opened their shops; it is a bit more open now.”
But Tibetan activists say that Beijing is tightening its grip on the region. Reportedly, massive security forces have been deployed in and around Tibet. Some reports say the police are searching for those they think are responsible for the unrest.
Foreigners and journalists have been barred from entering into the region and nearby provinces.
Blume explained: “We don’t see foreigners here any more. Initially there were some but they are gone now and no new foreigner has arrived over the past few days. I was also told to leave Tibet as well -- they said I had no travel permit. They formulated it as a request. They are very aware that they cannot send journalists away in the run-up to the Olympics.”
The Chinese authorities say that so far more than 100 protestors have given themselves over to police. They allege the protestors were responsible for creating the unrest in the region. However, rights activists say they were wrongfully arrested and warn they could be tortured. Earlier, the Chinese authorities had issued a deadline to those responsible for last week’s unrest and the death of 13 “innocent lives” to surrender by Monday night.
“Since the ultimatum expired, pictures of individuals have been shown on TV, with the authorities asking for information about them,” said Blume. “I have a feeling that the Communist Party has tightened its grip here. This morning, the newspapers had this line: the government is in a "life or death struggle" with the Dalai Lama.”
Meanwhile, international pressure is mounting on China to resume its dialogue with Tibet’s spiritual leader. Pope Benedict 16th has called for an end to the violence in Tibet and urged for dialogue.
In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told him that Beijing is open to talks but only under certain conditions:
"The premier told me that, subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has already said -- that he does not support the total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence -- that he would be prepared to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama."
The Dalai Lama insists he is in favour of a middle ground -- greater autonomy for Tibet within China. He has urged Tibetan activists to end their confrontational approach and has called on the Chinese authorities to facilitate a face-to-face dialogue.
Beijing and members of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile started holding annual talks in 2002 but there has hardly been any progress since.