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What began as a peaceful march by Tibetan Buddhist monks in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, quickly turned into one of the largest protests against Chinese rule in almost two decades.
On March 10, the first day of protests, 11 monks were detained after anti-Chinese demonstrations in front of Jokhang Temple, the holiest site in Tibetan Buddhism. The following morning, some 600 monks attempted to march out of Sera monastery, about three miles north of Jokhang, but Chinese troops used tear gas at the monastery’s gate to stop them.
The march coincided with others around the world marking the 49th anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in the region. The attempt forced the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan political and spiritual leader, into exile and set up Tibet’s government in Dharamsala, India.
There has been dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Beijing since 1979, but without evident progress.
Tensions between Tibetans and the Chinese have escalated since the first day of demonstrations. Many local Chinese residents fled Lhasa as Tibetan demonstrators ransacked and destroyed their shops. Thousands of Chinese police and troops were deployed across the capital to subdue the violence.
The aggression that originated from Lhasa has spread throughout neighboring ethnic Tibetan areas. Many riots have taken place since the first day of protests.
Since the clashes began, the Chinese government has reported 19 deaths. Meanwhile, the Tibetan government-in-exile reports as many as 140 dead. Due to an imposed news blackout by the Chinese, reports are unconfirmed.
China, along with Russia, condemns the protests, claiming these acts are being used by Tibetans to gain the world’s sympathy.
Activists recently broke through police lines in an attempt to disrupt the torch relay ceremony in Greece, but were quickly subdued by security.
With the 2008 Summer Olympics in August approaching, the world is closely monitoring Beijing and how it handles the situation.
As China continues to crack down on demonstrators, the world has a watchful eye.