The demonstrations which began on March 10, 2008, in Tibet, and which turned into riots since March 14, are remarkable both for their breadth and their radicalism. Far from being confined to the capital, Lhasa, they have spread to the bordering provinces of China, where communities of Tibetans reside: witnesses report important mobilisations in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan.
These riots sometimes have taken an quasi-insurrectionary turn. They testify to the despair of a population, of their feeling of oppression and dispossession. Indeed, Beijing continues in this "autonomous area" a systematic policy of colonisation by settlement: the development of infrastructure (such as the creation of a fast-rail link) is used for this purpose. Thus, the Han ethnic group (the dominant Chinese ethnic group) have become a majority in Tibet; it is they who, moreover, profit most from "development" in Tibet. This is the source of the revolt of the Tibetans, threatened by forced acculturation and assimilation. It also explains violence expressed by some "rioters" against Han passers-by and shopkeepers.
The reaction to events in Tibet are particularly sharp in South Asia. But in Nepal, and in India — where Dharamsala is the seat of the "government in exile" and where the Dalai Lama resides — demonstrations of the Tibetan community have been repressed by the police force. Gatherings denouncing the Beijing's policy have also been held in various countries, including France, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland. Many human rights associations have mobilised.
It is the time for solidarity. It is past the time when Tibetan nationalism can be used by the West against the Chinese Revolution. The survival of Tibetan people is the issue. The Chinese army has entered the action. According to sources, repression could have already caused scores or a few hundred deaths.
Beijing does all that it can to censor information. The truth of the situation in Tibet must be established by an independent commission. The right to self-determination of the people of Tibet must be recognised - including by governments and the United Nations.
[This statement was released on March 18. Pierre Rousset is editor of the Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières website and a member of the Revolutionary Communist League of France (LCR). This article was originally posted at http://links.org.au.]