March 31, 2008

British intelligence says the riots were staged by Chinese agents

Heard a lot about this one: British intelligence says Chinese soldiers dressed as monks were involved in — no, make that started — the Lhasa rioting. This finding would confirm the Dalai Lama's assertion that the violence was staged.

While this does not seem far-fetched, considering what Beijing is capable of, we should take all government intelligence with a shaker of salt, since we know it is ruthlessly used to achieve often very questionable political ends, and we have been given no proof. The whole idea seems a little whimsical, but so many of us want to believe it, since it confirms what we tend to believe about Tibetan monks and Tibetans more generally that they are not capable of the violence we have seen. That is to say, it makes an attractive narrative a little too neat. But not to be cynical — if it is true, good gracious.

But in any event, if British spy satellites are so good that they can spot Chinese soldiers donning monks' robes in Lhasa — why aren't they making my toast in the morning?

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sonam's picture

A blog provides the convenience rather than freedom of speech as most of the political blogs here - an otherwise Buddhist (spiritual!) magazine website - shows. The convenience is such that anybody with a little education can declare anything to be true without the even a hint of the necessity of proof.

Beijing is capable of many things, but which government or administration is not capable of many such things? Haven't we learned from Bush's or Blair's WMD claims? So, rightly we should take all government if not government intelligence as well 'with a shaker of salt.' And regarding 'Tibetan monks', or Christian clerics for that matter that we see on television or heard about in the news: How often do we really know anything about them beyond the robes they wear?

As our bloggers' considerable interest in politics here show - and who should blame them - religion and politics can't really be that different deep down inside. Here it confirms my belief that religion is the extension of politics by other means. It does show that for the vast majority of human beings it cannot be otherwise. Don't try to look for spirituality in religious institutions, or CNN or BBC, best agents of truth any day if put to the vote. A mountain cave may be a better alternative.

mike's picture

I am absolutely sure that the chinese goverment started those riots.
I have seen with my own eyes photos of chinese officials handing out the orange monk robes to about 15 or 20 police officers. there would be no other explanation for these photos I have seen.

Samson's picture

Good synthesis. I agree.

I do believe, though, that it is important to be careful of how we seek to balance the information provided by Chinese authorities versus the Dalai Lama and others.

We have already seen numerous lies coming from the PRC. The security forces pushing monks, who were doing no more than speaking the truth, away from visiting journalists and then blaming the monks for "disrupting" the stage-managed tour is but one of many examples.

China is now playing up the "suicide bombers" lie to gain acceptance for rigid controls before and during the Olympic Games. You can be sure the purpose of these controls is not to protect attendees at the Olympics, but to keep Western journalists away from Tibetan and Chinese dissidents.

The history of Chinese violence toward Tibet is too long, too detailed, and too well known for us to be anything but extremely suspicious of everything the PRC says and does.

Philip Ryan's picture

Yes, let us remain open to the possibility that the Chinese are guilty of starting the riots by having soldiers pose as monks, and let us remain open to the possibility that they are not. Not suprisingly, Beijing denies it.

Several sites (Precious Metal, h~log) are linking to a picture which was apparently for a movie shoot. Monks refused to participate, so soldiers were involved. This picture seems to have been taken several years ago and should not be reproduced out of context.

Samson's picture

In hindsight, there appears to have been no benefit, now that the demonstrations have gotten out of control and gained the attention of the world. But is quite possible that Beijing had believed that they would get just enough disturbance to crack down quietly and hard well before the Olympics.

This is not proof, but it does answer the cui bono question.

I do not believe this story has all that much to do with people "wanting to believe it," but rather with some interesting photos (the man with the knife), Beijing's history of doing this in the past, the British spy statements, and statements from people like Ruan Ming in Taiwan who believe it is actually the case.

True, we do not yet have proof, but we should remain open to the possibility.

Notice how crude Beijing's propaganda has been. People who think and speak like that might very well have staged the demonstrations. Also, they spent a good deal of time filming the events and have used them to their advantage in China. It is quite possible they completely misjudged Tibet and the world's reaction (as they often do). They may have thought they could stir up some trouble, film it, and then use it for propaganda and as an excuse to crack down on Tibet to be extra sure that nothing happened during the Olympics

lurker's picture

Cui bono? There is really no benefit for PRC to stage this, especially just before Olympiad.