Casualties and Fatalities
The US Congress-funded Radio Free Asia quoted witnesses who said they had seen at least two bodies on Lhasa's streets. China's state-controlled Xinhua News Agency reported early Saturday, 15 March, that 10 people so far had been burned to death by rioters, including two hotel employees and two shop owners. It also reported that the victims were all innocent civilians and that most of them were business people. The Associated Press reported that at a press conference on Monday, 17 March, Tibet Autonomous Region governor Champa Phuntsok announced that 16 had been confirmed dead over the weekend's violence and dozens were injured. Other sources published after the same press conference indicate that China put the death toll in Lhasa at 13.
The Associated Press claimed later that the Chinese government's official death toll from last week's rioting in Lhasa has risen to 22. Accordingly, the death toll provided by China's official news agency Xinhua has risen to 19. Tibet's government-in-exile said on Saturday, 15 March that it had received "unconfirmed reports" of as many as 100 deaths due to the unrest in Tibet. Later, the Tibetan exile government said on Sunday that it has confirmed at least 80 deaths. According to James Miles, The Economist's correspondent in Lhasa, the police fatalities included both Tibetans and the ethnic Han Chinese who were the target of much of the violence. Qiangba Puncog, the head of Tibet's regional government, said that Chinese police did not fire their guns or use anti-personnel weapons against the Tibetan protesters, even though the Tibetans wounded 61 police officers, including six in serious condition, and the Beijing-backed Tibetan regional government reported that 13 innocent civilians have been killed by mobs. According to eyewitnesses' accounts and testimonies received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), at least 79 Tibetans are known to have died as a direct result of the crackdown. Over 1200 Tibetans have been arrested. More than 100 Tibetans have disappeared.
A news source affiliated with a Tibetan exile group reported that People's Armed Police have blocked off water, electricity, food and health facilities in Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries and others active in the demonstrations.
Since March 14, in Ramoche Monastery (Lhasa) Chinese military presence has been a regular scene, as they have completely surrounded the monastery premises and blocked of all exit and entry points. As a result of these tight restrictions, getting regular food and water supplies has been a huge problem for the monastery and on 24 March, a monk from Ramoche reportedly died from starvation. From time to time, the military has been firing tear gas inside the Monastery premises.1
According to the People's Daily, as of 24 March, order has returned to some parts in Sichuan Province, as schools, shops and restaurants reopen to the public.
On 26 March, a small group of foreign journalists were taken by bus into Tibet, in a move that appears calculated to bolster government claims that authorities are in control and that the protests which began peacefully were acts of destruction and murder. The heavily armed police presence indicates Lhasa remains under lockdown. Reporters were guided to burned streets in Lhasa hung with a red banner that reads "Construct a Harmonious Society," a catchphrase from the Chinese president's efforts to deal with social unrest created by an increasing gap between an urban middle class and the poor. The Dalai Lama called the trip "a first step," provided that reporters were given complete freedom.
The US State Department issued a warning to US Citizens on 20 March, to those who are attending the Beijing Olympics, that "'Americans' conversations and telephones could be monitored and their rooms could be searched without their knowledge or consent."
Possible Olympic Boycott
According to International Olympic Committee vice-president Thomas Bach, some athletes were considering boycotting the 2008 Summer Olympics in August over the crackdown in Tibet. He said that he understood their concerns but advised the athletes to still compete. "They will realize when they assess the situation that it is better to make an appearance than to stay away. That is a symbol that will be noticed by the public," he said.
European Union members and the Olympic Committees voiced opposition to a boycott of the Beijing Games over China's handling of the Tibet protests, saying sports should not be linked to politics. Patrick Hickey, the head of the European Olympic Committees, said in an interview with the Associated Press. "Under no circumstance will we support the boycott. We are 100 percent unanimous. Not one government leader has called for a boycott. A boycott is only a punishment of the athletes." Australia's Olympic Committee have also objected, and, to date, no foreign governments have called for one. The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner did not rule out the idea of a "mini-boycott" in a first moment. However, in a second moment he backtracked describing it as being "unrealistic" given the importance of the economic relations with China. On Tuesday, he stated his boycott of the opening ceremony would depend on China's actions in the interim. Belgian Vice Premier Didier Reynders has also not excluded a boycott of the opening ceremony.
The 14th Dalai Lama himself reiterated that he was against any boycott, saying Chinese people should not be blamed for the situation in his homeland. He said Beijing needs to be "reminded to be a good host" of the Summer Games.
The Olympic torch was lit in Greece on 24 March despite a protest from media rights group Reporters Without Borders who broke through a cordon of 1,000 police officers. Tibet protestors now plan to dog the Olympic torch throughout its journey across the globe.
Many Beijing Olympic sponsors are now facing pressure including Lenovo, Coca-Cola, Samsung, and McDonalds. The unrest is being compared to sponsor boycotts of the 1996 Atlanta games over homophobia, as well as the 2000 Sydney games over Australian aboriginal rights.
The Prime Minister of Poland has decided to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. The Polish prime minister Donald Tusk became the first head of a European government to decisively announce a boycott.
On 28 March 2008 the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that she will not be attending the Olympics. Germany's foreign minister said that Merkel had not planned to go to Beijing anyway, so there was "nothing to cancel", and "no link to Tibet".
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