Suddenly, for the first time in many years, there’s hope.
As tension and protests mount in Tibet - and within Tibetan communities outside the country - there is a sense that at last something is shifting, however fraught with perils that change may be.
It had to happen. Although most Tibetans have been solidly behind the Dalai Lama’s peaceful approach to resistance, already when I was in Tibet and Dharamsala in 1995 youth and student groups were getting restive. For all the exiled spiritual leader’s reasonableness as he tried to talk to Chinese leaders, fundamentally nothing was changing.
Without a doubt the Dalai Lama’s non-violent approach has saved a great many lives. The cultural genocide that the country has been suffering, since its invasion by the China in 1950, would almost certainly have become a physical genocide had Tibetans pursued the course of armed resistance. Some tried it briefly; but Kampa horsemen were soon crushed by Mao’s modern army.
With the Olympic flame throwing its light on China’s human rights failings, the opportunity for asserting Tibetan rights and autonomy have never been better. Pressure on China by foreign leaders at this acutely sensitive time is more likely to bear fruit now than at any other moment in the past 50 years. While the potential of the internet opens up a new window of possibility in this ancient and seemingly intractable struggle.