Spotlight On Tibet: China’s Olympic Crackdown PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rebecca Novick   

China’s authorities have cracked down on Tibetans after protests this spring raged across the Tibetan plateau. The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy estimates that 6,500 Tibetans have been arrested since March. Hundreds of others have reportedly been removed from their homes and taken to undisclosed locations.

Olympic Rings

In July, police and security personnel conducted a pre-Olympic sweep of Tibet’s main monasteries, with The Times U.K. reporting the arrest of over 1,000 monks. A Tibetan youth testified to barbaric conditions in the prisons, with monks receiving the harshest treatment. “I can’t believe we’re in the 21st century,” he said. Tibetans in exile say they are unable to contact friends and families in their homeland. Intimidation by authorities prevent Tibetans from feeling safe receiving calls from friends or family overseas. There are many cases of police turning up on the doorsteps of Tibetans who have been calling and receiving calls from overseas, particularly from India. Tibetans say they often hear Chinese voices on the line, and their calls are cut off whenever anyone says anything considered sensitive.

Small-scale protests were reported in regions of Eastern Tibet as recently as July 17 (as of press date). In the past few months, China has flooded these areas with armed forces to ensure they stay quiet during the Olympics. While TAR (the Tibetan Autonomous Region) has re-opened to foreign tourism, many Tibetan areas in the East remain off-limits. A Taiwanese-American traveling through Western Sichuan province in the Tibetan area of Kham, in early August reported that the area resembled a war zone.


A new round of draconian measures has focused on purging monks from monasteries and heavily restricting Buddhist practice. Such dramatic attacks on Tibetan Buddhism have not been seen since the Cultural Revolution. Additionally, monks are not allowed to speak with foreigners and their movements are severely restricted. In certain cases, monks have been told they must seek permits to leave the monastic grounds.

Even under these circumstances, not all Tibetans are cooperating with the authorities. Many continue to display portraits of the Dalai Lama, despite threats by police, while Tibetans in Kham within the Qinghai province refused to participate in a summer festival organized by the Chinese government to celebrate the Olympics.

In Beijing, protests in support of Tibet continued around the Olympic Games. One of the most audacious took place the day before
the opening ceremonies when members of Students for a Free Tibet climbed a post outside the Olympic Village and hung a ONE WORLD, ONE DREAM, FREE TIBET banner. Since then, a number of pro-Tibet demonstrations have occurred, although the protestors were swiftly removed by Chinese security and subsequently deported to their home countries.

A group of 127 international athletes, including more than 40 competing in the Beijing Games, wrote an open letter to China’s President Hu Jintao expressing sympathy for the people of Tibet and calling for a peaceful solution and respect for human rights in China.

According to the International Campaign for Tibet, Tibetans in Tibet have expressed concern that repression will tighten after the Olympics. One monk from the Kumbum Monastery told a reporter from the global news network Agence France-Presse (AFP), “People say things will get better after the Olympics, but I’m not so sure. I think things might get worse.”

Rebecca Novick is currently reporting from Dharamsala, India. She is the Executive Producer of The Tibet Connection radio program found online at:

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