Large New Protests in Lhasa: No-Win Choices for Beijing

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Although news is still sketchy it is clear that there have been fresh and much more serious demonstrations in the Tibetan capital Lhasa today. Activists, academics and residents said the protests, which had been peaceful until now, turned violent. Unconfirmed but credible reports spoke of police vehicles and a large market in flames. Electricity supply in the city has been cut off. There were also rumors that some form of marshal law or emergency law had been declared, though they too were impossible to confirm. What’s clear is that the simmering resentment against Chinese rule that has now been building up for years has burst loose among ethnic Tibetans. Five months before the Olympics this really is a “perfect storm” for Beijing as it appears to be in a no-win situation: if the authorities don’t react, the protest will grow larger (remember Tiananmen?); if they do, and there are deaths, as would seem inevitable, they face the possibility of much more serious anti-Olympics/boycott campaigning that will far exceed the limited traction gained by the Darfur activists.