<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> WorldTribune.com: Mobile — Mysteries galore at roof of the world, but mainly in Beijing

Mysteries galore at roof of the world, but mainly in Beijing

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 Free Headline Alerts

Tibet has always been said to be a land of mystery. Now Beijing has added a new puzzler.

Whatever happened to Beijing’s incredibly huge and expensive security apparatus? For whatever else has failed in the past few weeks, it is clear that the Chinese police state is limping.

It reminds one of the period of MaoTse-tung’s Great Leap Forward [1958-60] when the Great Helmsman turned the country to chaos with his idiotic economic theories [“backyard” steel furnaces, indeed!]. It was said then that China was a planned economy without a plan; now we have a police state whose police are looking more and more like The Keystone Cops. But they are as brutal as ever and not as humorous, certainly for anyone who cares about human values.

As always with China these days, there are far more questions than answers.

First off, why – as seems generally conceded by foreign observers in China, however crippled as they are by the lack of transparency and restrictions on their travel and contact – were the Chinese surprised by the Tibetan demonstrations. They broke out on March 14th, the eve of the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s secret flight to India. Perhaps fearful that the 73-year-old could move even beyond the Himalayan peaks with the world girdling exhaustive schedule he keeps, the activists were reluctant to wait another year for a major demonstration of their loyalty to him as a symbol of their dying culture.

One of the more bizarre speculations is that the events were, in fact, initiated by the Chinese themselves. According to this conspiracy theory, Chinese police disguised themselves as Tibetan monks and prepared for a phony but violent demonstration in Lhasa, the capital – including attacks on the Chinese colonists there. These masked but false demonstrators were to further disparage the Dalai Lama’s oft professed dedication to nonviolence. That is another aspect of the Tibetan scene that Beijing propaganda denies as it attempts to demonize the old priest. This was to have been an ingenious way, the plot theory goes, to diffuse the anticipated agitation which had already begun, notably among the Hollywood adherents of the Dalai Lama, as a prelude to the Olympics in August.

If that seems beyond the pale, remember that the Chinese have borrowed heavily from the Russian-Soviet Chekist tradition of use of “agents provocateurs”, secret police that join a cause to smoke out the real dissidents. The Imperial Russian and then Soviet examples are endless. And Mao laid just such a trap on a huge scale in 1956-57. For a brief period, not long after the Communists took power and knowing full well of the huge opposition to their rule, Mao proclaimed, “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend." China’s educated and professionals bit hard and as a reward for their suggestions about solutions to the country’s problems, they were denounced, rounded up, imprisoned, in some cases executed.

Some of the more flamboyant conspiracy theorists are already on the web with stories that these supposed efforts backfired – or in the argot of the spy afficionados, there was “blow-back”. Real demonstrations by Tibetans loyal to the Dalai Lama, it was said, began to occur in the Tibetan areas in neighboring majority Han Chinese provinces, administratively sheared off from the present Chinese-sponsored Tibetan Administrative Region [TAR].

This whole conspiracy theory has taken on some water with what purport to be photographs smuggled out through Hong Kong satellite communications of Chinese military gathered for what seems a respite in some sort of training program. They are carrying Tibetan monks’ robes in their arms. The photographs – and there is no certain way immediately to date them – show a group of men in uniform milling about as though between sessions. Other explanations for the photographs: there are known to be Chinese agents among the Tibetan monks, and there have been roundups in which Tibetan monks were forced to strip and walk naked through public areas. That would explain what appears to be Chinese soldiers carrying Tibetan robes.

It also appears clear that whatever the origins of the rioting and the preparation of the Chinese police for it, the response was slow and ineffective at first. That is in spite of the fact that the Chinese police are getting plenty of practice these days with more and more frequent spontaneous outbreaks of dissidence and violence over land seizures, forced femovals [tens of thousands for the Olympics in Beijing], etc.

That again seems passing strange.

The reason is that President Hu Jintao is considered within the Party to be a “Tibetan expert”. He was Chinese “gauleiter” in Tibet as regional Party secretary from 1988 to 2002. Although the gossip has it that he spent less time there than in Beijing because of “altitude sickness”, skeptics suggest he preferred to stay near the center of power in Beijing. He would, of all leaders in the Party, be aware it would seem of the growing embitterness, hatred and frustration of the Tibetan population being squeezed in their own country. And, perhaps even more important, other Party officials would look to him for “expert” guidance”. Hu is therefore identified in the public mind – and perhaps far more importantly in the Party — with Tibet where he held his first major postion. Furthermore, it was Hu with his “hit hard” campaign of suppression of demonstrations in the Tibetan capital in 1989, only three months before the massacre at Tiananmen Square, who has presumably been the leader of the hard line faction inside government.

That government through several negotiations has refused to make any concessions to the Dalai Lama’s “middle position” of autonomy for the Tibetans. In this the Dalai lama has encountered opposition from younger Tibetans in exile who are vehement for a return to independence. There are those, too, reportedly, in the Chinese inner circles who believe that the Dalai Lama’s death – he has speculated there might not be traditional reincarnation of his personna — rather than terminating Tibetan nationalistm and opposition to the Chinese, might end of any possibility of a negotiated settlement..

There is also the question of the competence of the People’s Armed Police [PAP] who initially at least carried the burden of the repression. These are the security forces organized after Tiananmen, as a result then of the failure of the Beijing garrison of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] to move against the dissidents. They have, presumably, been staffed with cast-offs from the regular army forces. But as an attempt to reduce the size of China’s giant army by off-loading those without skills, it would have been logical that many of those sent into the PAP might not have been of high caliber. And, in fact, when in the early 1990s the PAP was sent into the border areas along North Korea to police the widespread flight of refugees, the contraband and corruption, they came a cropper and the PLA had to be sent in to replace them.

Another bit of evidence that plans have gone completely awry is that after the initial outbreak — not once but twice — Beijing has organized Potemkin tours of Tibet ostensibly to show a few selected foreign journalists based in the capital that all was well. Not once, but twice on these tours, after being taken to monasteries, the journalists have been confronted with what were obviously unrehearsed demonstrations of Tibetan solidarity by the monks for the Dalai Lama. In the second episode in early April in the neighboring province of Kansu, the embarassment of the Chinese guides and the ferocity of the Tibetan feeling was apparent and filmed by the journalists [although so far the reporting has not shown up on the mainstream media.]

The incompetence and breakdown in security arrangements would even suggest – as it does so often when things go publicly wrong in China – that what we may be seeing is an expression of shin-kicking among top Party factions. Just as the corruption allegations, trials, and sometimes punishment are more often a reflection of intra-Party in-fighting than an advance toward the rule of law, that could be the case here.

Still an additional speculation is, of course, that we are seeing a manifestation of the hubris and corruption that may have overtaken Chinese leadership, basking in the glory of their unmistakable economic successes. It is hard not to see that in some of Hu’s body language at public meetings and in his visits overseas. The fact that the Chinese would recruit non–English-speaking [all over 6 foot] security agents – the head of the U.K. Olympic Committee called them “thugs” – and send them to “guard” the Olympic flame through London and Paris suggests the parochialism of this leadership. Their wrestling demonstrators to the ground in London became a scandal with even Kevin Rudd, Australia’s new prime minister, more sympathetic than most to China’s problems, had to warn they would not be tolerated in his country.

One has to remember that both Hu and his prime minsiter, Wen Jiabao, are Party apparatchiks, hacks who survived by keeping their heads down during the halycon years of Maoist extremism and conflict, until they reached high office. They had never been abroad – a generation later than their elders who had least had had exposure to the Soviet Union. One should not minimize their lack of understanding of how the game [or in this case The Games] is played in Western democracies and Japan. That may be true even though they had created a forest of skyscrapers in record time in Shanghai and monumental buildings on the Olympic campus in Beijing. [The head of the Olympic construction, by the way, was sacked two years ago because of accusations of corruption,]

As the turbulence continues, and it seems destined to do so, in the lead-up to the Olympics, it will be important to keep a weather eye out for more of this new Tibetan mystery.

   WorldTribune Home