We are now back in Kunming, China. Happy to be back in China but sad to leave Laos. Since we were last here there has been lots of international protest against China in the run up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and scenes of terrible violence in Tibet.
The first protests in Lhasa and other Tibetan communities around the world occurred on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule which forced Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile in India. These were the biggest Tibet protests in 20 years. It's terribly sad to hear that these protests turned violent and according to eye witnesses in Lhasa "Chinese and Hui Muslim places were targeted" . Tibetan sources say over 80 Tibetans were killed by the Military.
China is a great country, which should not be (as always) viewed solely by the actions of its government.
From our experience the Tibetans we met were not 'anti Chinese' but simply wanted more autonomy and freedom in their homeland. The Chinese Media is so heavily controlled it's hard for Chinese people to have a true debate on Tibet or indeed human rights in China as a whole.
We should also not forget that Tibet is not the only Chinese province to suffer barbaric treatment from its Beijing masters, as Charles Cumming highlights in a recent Guardian comment, 'Quiet death in Xinjiang'.
The Chinese government claims that the Dalai Lama is behind the violence and has even gone as far accusing 'the Dalai Lama and his supporters yesterday of plotting suicide attacks in the wake of last month's violent protests in Lhasa.'
But, Could the violence have been sparked by Chinese agent provocateurs?
There have been Military crackdowns in Tibet and around China / Tibet. The beautiful peaceful town of Langmusi (Hezuo), a small mostly Tibetan town we visited in November last year has been the site of a military crackdown after protests there. As has Labrung (Xiahe) and Lhasa. Not that much of it is reported openly/ fairly here in the heavily controlled Chinese Media. CCTV the Chinese state broadcaster has been running footage from the Lhasa riots on loop, blaming the 'Dalai Clique' and splitists for the violence, whilst avoiding the issues.
CCTV9 China's 'International', English language channel aired this 'documentary'.
Part One above, Click here for Part Two
Below is one of the reports from Channel 4 (UK) which gives some perspective from Tibetans including their allegations that over 80 Tibetans were killed by the Military.
The Dalai Lama, has said that he does not support an Olympics boycott.
Protests have followed the Olympic torch relay from Olympia to Beijing. I've been reading about some of these protests (Olympia, Athens, France, London, San Fransisco, Tibet, China) on The Guardian site, which doesn't seem to be censored or blocked here. The English language version of the BBC website is not blocked anymore in China as it was last time we were here, although the Chinese language version of the BBC site is still blocked. Most of YouTube is blocked again in China, The China Post (From Taiwan) reported that access was denied to the site 'after footage of recent deadly protests in Tibet appeared on the video posting site.'
Tourists and Journalists are being denied or given restricted access in Tibet and China.
Our site www.environments.org.uk is still blocked in China and I can't find a working proxy yet. We can write, but not read it here?!
What's really sad is that whilst the activism across the world has grabbed a lot of Media attention, it doesn't seem to be having a positive effect within China. Many Chinese see it as "Anti Chinese" and may miss the pro-humanitarian concerns of many of the campaigners.
A comment on my Team Tibet film, by someone mocking the Chinese Communist Party, CCP, said "thank you "Free Tibet" Activist, thank you for taken the minds of Chinese people off of the corruption and the problems of the CCP. thank you for inciting their nationalism against all foreigners trying to sabotage the olympics. They support us now, and we've never felt more secure in power. thanks again. CCP"
The Campaigning website Avaaz.org is launching a campaign: SAVE THE OLYMPICS, asking China 'to save the Olympics for all of us, by making specific, reasonable progress in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, securing release of Burmese and Tibetan political prisoners, and supporting peacekeeping in Darfur.' ... They explain 'our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we're not anti-China but pro-humanitarian'
Our Photos from Tibet and China Our Team Tibet film
Reports of Troubles in Tibet on: BBC, Guardian, China.com Times
Channel 4 news reports on Youtube: Biggest Tibet protests in 20 years, Tibet deadline passes: death toll disputed, China denies using force in Tibet
Accounts from Lhasa and beyond - BBC
The Olympic torch's shadowy past
Tensions in Tibet - BBC
Olympic Games 2008 - Guardian
The challenges of reporting in China - BBC
Tense Time at Tibetan Monastery - BBC
Tibetan Monk Speaks out
China's quandary over Tibet's future
Stories China's media could not write - BBC
Joanna Lumley talking in the Guardian about her support for Tibet
YouTube access blocked in China after Tibet clips appear - The China Post
Lonely Planet - Thorntree Travel Forum - Tibet
I predict a riot - Björk upset the Chinese authorities by shouting 'Tibet, Tibet' during a recent concert. But can music really bring down governments? - Jeremy Kuper - The Guardian.
Brit spies confirm Dalai Lama's report of staged violence
Quiet death in XinjiangChina struggles to quell Tibet rebels
Save the Olympics - Avaaz Campaign
(Note: I have since edited this post, whilst in Hong Kong, where there are less restrictions, and added a few more links when I got back in the UK).