Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tibet and China: 7 questions
Tibet map

The six decades since China sent troops into Tibet in 1950 have been marked by periods of unrest and sporadic uprisings against Beijing's rule.

While China says it has an historic and cultural claim to the territory, Tibet's cause has been championed by many in the West.

Here, two leading academics analyse both sides of the dispute. Dr Steve Tsang specialises in Modern Chinese Studies at St Antony's College, Oxford. Andrew Fischer is an expert in Tibet at the Development Studies Institute, at the London School of Economics.

1. WHAT IS CHINA'S CLAIM ON TIBET?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
The two sides disagree about the legal status of Tibet, which is governed as an autonomous region of China.

Beijing claims a centuries-old sovereignty over the region. But many Tibetans argue Chinese involvement in their country only dates back to the invasion of 1950.

2. HOW DO YOU DEFINE TIBET?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
China has a specific definition of Tibet, which it refers to as the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).

Campaigners say Tibet is actually much larger than that, taking in parts of neighbouring Chinese provinces which have large Tibetan populations.

3. WHAT POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS DO TIBETANS HAVE?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
This is a highly controversial area, with human rights groups accusing China of repression.

China denies that, saying Tibetans are guaranteed political and religious freedom.

4. WHAT HAS THE EFFECT OF CHINESE MIGRATION BEEN ON TIBET?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
Mass migration by Han Chinese to Tibetan areas has been encouraged by the government in Beijing, which claims that Tibet has benefited economically from the influx.

Tibetans still make up 93% of the population in the TAR, but there are complaints they are losing out to new arrivals.

5. WHO WAS TO BLAME FOR THE RECENT VIOLENCE IN THE COUNTRY?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
Tibetan communities launched a series of protests against Chinese rule in March 2008, marked by violent clashes.

Tibet's government-in-exile says some 140 people were killed in a crackdown by Chinese security forces. Beijing says 19 people were killed by rioters.

6. WHAT ROLE SHOULD THE DALAI LAMA HAVE IN TIBET?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to Dharamsala in northern India in 1959, where his supporters set up a government in exile.

China insists that the Dalai Lama wants to separate Tibet from the motherland; the Dalai Lama says he only wants genuine autonomy for the region.

7. WHAT IS THE WAY FORWARD?
The issue Dr Steve Tsang Andrew Fischer
In recent years Beijing has been engaged in low-level talks with Tibet's government-in-exile, but the gulf between them is still wide.

The central issue to be resolved is how much autonomy the Tibetans will retain in the future.

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