Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Let's do the thugs...

Coe slams Chinese 'thugs'

The Daily Telegraph

April 08, 2008 - SEBASTIAN Coe, London's 2012 Olympics chief, has been overheard describing Chinese officials guarding the Olympic torch as it passed through London as "thugs".

Channel 4 News said it was accidentally connected to a conversation between former Olympic champion, now Lord Coe and a media spokeswoman when in fact the broadcaster had been hoping to speak to the former his media office.

Lord Coe's comments were directed at Chinese officials guarding the Olympic torch during its tumultuous journey through London on Sunday, when several protesters attempted to disrupt the route.

See footage of the scuffles here

He said organisers of the French leg of the torch relay through Paris should "get rid of those guys" because the Chinese officials "tried to push me out of the way three times".

"They are horrible. They did not speak English ... I think they were thugs."

A spokeswoman for the London 2012 Olympics confirmed that Lord Coe, the 1980 and 1984 Olympic 1500m champion, had made the remarks.

"Seb (Coe) was commenting on media reports about the role of the flame attendants during yesterday's torch relay," a spokeswoman for the London Games said today.

"He was expressing his concern with the way he had been treated by them when he was on the relay route."

Dawn gone: Fraser to boycott Beijing Olympics

By Bonny Symons-Brown

April 09, 2008 - AUSTRALIAN Olympic legend Dawn Fraser will make her own protest over China's treatment of Tibet, refusing to attend the Beijing Games in August.

It will be only the second Olympic Games the four-times gold medallist has not attended since making her Olympic debut in Melbourne, in 1956.

"As a spectator, I am making my own statement by not going," Fraser told AAP.

"I support the Tibetans (but) I don't support the violence that the protesters are creating.

"It's a shame it's taken place during the torch relay but I don't think it will dampen the Olympic spirit at all," she said.

China should also never have been awarded the right to host the Games on account of their human rights record, she said.

"Mainly because of the human rights and what they've done to Tibet".

"When you hear the Tibetans tell their terrible stories about what the Chinese government has done to them, and what their forces have done to them, it is just awful."

Sourced: Daily Telegraph

Fraser boycotts Olympics

"When you hear the Tibetans tell their terrible stories about what the Chinese Government has done to them, and what their forces have done to them, it is just awful" -- Dawn Fraser at the 2000 Olympics torch Rally in Sydney

Australian Olympic legend Dawn Fraser will make her own protest over China's treatment of Tibet, refusing to attend the Beijing Games in August.

It will be only the second Olympic Games the four-times gold medallist has not attended since making her Olympic debut in Melbourne, in 1956.

Fraser missed the 2004 Athens Olympics after a spat with the Australian Olympic Committee in which she claimed it had failed to invite her to the event, a charge the committee later denied.

"As a spectator, I am making my own statement by not going," Fraser told AAP.

"I support the Tibetans [but] I don't support the violence that the protesters are creating.

"It's a shame it's taken place during the torch relay but I don't think it will dampen the Olympic spirit at all," she said.

China should also never have been awarded the right to host the Games on account of their human rights record, she said.

"Mainly because of the human rights and what they've done to Tibet.

"When you hear the Tibetans tell their terrible stories about what the Chinese Government has done to them, and what their forces have done to them, it is just awful."

The future of the international Olympic torch relay is now in doubt after pro-Tibetan demonstrators shadowed the Olympic torch relay as it progressed through Europe, violently clashing with police and officials on the streets of London and Paris this week.

Local interest in the Games will remain strong even if the International Olympic Committee cuts the torch relay short, Fraser said.

"Here in Australia we are sport mad and we will watch the Olympics [on television] whatever happens in China," she said.

Fellow former Olympic swimmer Susie O'Neill has also spoken out over the torch controversy, saying the relay had been hijacked by protesters and should be scrapped.

"Everyday, everybody is talking about the Olympics but you've got bad publicity. So I'd probably just scrap it if it was me," O'Neill told ABC radio today.

"In retrospect I suppose it was pretty obvious that it was going to happen, [but] I just get a little bit angry when people use the Olympics as their protesting forum. It's so removed from politics."

The torch relay will continue in San Francisco tomorrow.

AAP- SMH with Daniel Emerson

Act fast to save Olympics

Bangkok Post

It is now apparent that unless the Chinese government makes some drastic moves in the next few weeks, the global protests against its human rights performance may well overshadow the Beijing Olympics.

On Monday Jacques Rogge, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said he was "very concerned" about unrest in Tibet and called on Beijing to seek a "rapid" and peaceful resolution. Heretofore the IOC has done its utmost to keep politics out of the Games. Clearly that is not possible.

Mr Rogge is most concerned about the protests targetting the Olympic torch as it makes its journey around the world. His comments were made before protests in Paris later in the day that probably exceeded his worst fears. Torch-bearing athletes encountered protesters aggressively attempting to put out the flame all along their course through the city. The Associated Press reported that security officials extinguished the torch themselves at least four times and placed it inside a bus to keep protesters from symbolically snuffing the Olympic spirit. There were also protests in London, and it is probable that as the procession makes its 21-nation trip, there will be much larger protests in other cities.

If China is to have the genuine "Olympic moment" that all Chinese clearly want, the only real option is to follow Mr Rogge's suggestion and make some quick concessions on human rights.

To save the Olympics, there are several immediate steps China could take which would cost it very little in terms of real power - economic, political or otherwise.

The first of these is to pledge semi-autonomy for Tibet, along the lines of Hong Kong. This would go a long way toward defusing the situation. Even the Dalai Lama is calling for semi-autonomy, not complete independence.

The second is to abruptly suspend all arms deals with Sudan. A recent Human Rights First report identified China as the single largest provider of small arms to Sudan. Any income China derives from this is paltry compared to the knocks it is taking on human rights.

A third step would be to bring real pressure on the military government in Burma. The issue of human rights in Burma has scarcely been mentioned in the run-up to the Olympics, but what has been going on inside the country is, in fact, far worse than anything that has happened in Tibet. Human rights groups believe that the UN's official death toll of 31 for the October crackdown is far too low, and that thousands of demonstrators and their families remain in squalid detention.

China, of course, is not directly responsible for the situation in Burma, and the Chinese leadership can be credited with some behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to open lines of communication during the crackdown.

However, by holding out against sanctions on the UN Security Council, China is preventing effective action by the world community and providing cover for other countries - Thailand, India, as well as China itself - which supply the economic aid that keeps the Burmese military's hold on power unassailable.

In its defence, China has argued with some validity that it is being judged by a different standard, pointing out the widespread human rights violations stemming from the war on Iraq.

Be that as it may, what is at stake here is really more important than even the Olympics. For China to begin to take a more responsible position on human rights as it assumes an ever greater role on the world stage, would have tremendous repercussions around the world.

Rudd voices concerns on Tibet

Sydney Morning Herald

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will tell students at a Chinese university that there are significant human rights problems in Tibet, according to a transcript of the speech.

"Australia, like most other countries, recognises China sovereignty over Tibet but we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problems in Tibet," the transcript given to reporters said.

"The current situation in Tibet is of concern to Australians. We recognise the need for all parties to avoid silence and find a solution through dialogue."

The speech to students at Peking University this morning is Mr Rudd's first engagement of a four-day visit to China. China is the last leg of his first international tour as prime minister.

The Chinese government is already upset with comments Mr Rudd made in the US last week, in which he condemned human rights abuses in Tibet and called on China to talk to exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Chinese officials raised the comments with Australian ambassador Geoff Raby in Beijing.

And in Canberra, Chinese ambassador Zhang Junsai conveyed the protest to an Australian foreign affairs official, however a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesman said no formal written complaint had been lodged.


Tibetan leaders struggle to speak for split populace

By Mark Sappenfield
Staff writer of
The Christian Science Monitor

The government in exile is popular but
faces pressure from moderates and radicals.

April 9, 2008 - Dharamsala, India - As a member of the Tibetan parliament in exile, Pema Jungney is increasingly finding himself caught in the middle.

With rioting in Tibet and young radicals at home pushing for a harder line against Chinese rule, he's under pressure to explain his government's support for the Dalai Lama's "Middle Path" of dialogue and reconciliation.

Then again, the last time parliament tried to review the Dalai Lama's Tibet policy, protesters gathered at the steps and declared a hunger strike.

In the past 20 years, the Dalai Lama has transformed the Tibetan government in exile from the semitheocracy he brought from Tibet to a relatively independent democracy. In doing so, he has invested it with more responsibility.

Now, the government must struggle with how to bridge the growing generation gap, finding its own voice while also paying due reverence to the Dalai Lama, whom most Tibetans worship as a god.

It has successes upon which to build. Even critics praise its work on behalf of the Tibetan refugee community – managing 80 schools and 40 refugee settlements across South Asia as well as holding orderly elections on three continents.

But among the 110,000 Tibetan refugees worldwide – many of whom follow Dharamsala as their true government, though it is not recognized by any nation – the government-in-exile will be judged upon how it handles the Tibetan issue, where frustrations are mounting.

"It will be very difficult for the Tibetan government," says Mr. Jungney. "Right now, the direction is toward violence."

Keeping the Tibet issue alive

Since rioting against Chinese authority broke out in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 10, the government-in-exile – officially named the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) – has sought to be a mouthpiece for disgruntled Tibetans in China. It has repeatedly contested the official Chinese version of events, suggesting that more than 140 Tibetans have been killed in the crackdown.

Here in Dharamsala, where the CTA's collection of weather-worn buildings clings to a pine-studded spur of the Himalayas, autopsy photos of dead Tibetans stretch above narrow, potholed streets like gruesome prayer flags – commemorating those allegedly killed by Chinese law enforcement.

For its part, the Chinese government has dismissed as "totally fake" a list of 40 victims released by the government-in-exile two weeks ago.

With China refusing to deal with either the Dalai Lama or the government-in-exile, the best the government can hope for is to keep the issue of Tibet alive globally. The list is a part of that, as are embassy-like missions in 13 cities from New York to London to Tokyo. Officials are there to lobby governments and "gather support for the issue of Tibet," says Thubten Samphel, secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations.

Violence is no part of that mission, say government officials. Mr. Jungney, of the parliament, says his emergency committees are coming up with nonviolent ways to protest when the Olympic torch comes to New Delhi later this month – acting out scenes of Chinese torture, for example.

Chinese officials dispute that assertion. They say the "Dalai clique" – which includes the government-in-exile – is masterminding the riots in the Tibetan heartland and that 22 people died in the initial protests in Lhasa.

But the government-in-exile's support for the Dalai Lama's "Middle Path" of dialogue and reconciliation with China is well known. Among refugees, it is the parliament's most controversial position.

In abandoning calls for independence and settling for autonomy, the government-in-exile is betraying "the call of the nation," says Sonam Dorjee, an executive member of the Tibetan Youth Congress.

In the dim light of a diner, Mr. Dorjee speaks with the conviction of a revolutionary. The uprising in Tibet is evidence that Tibet wants freedom. "The Tibetan freedom struggle is very sensitive," he says. "But if [the government-in-exile] never listens to what people are saying, there is no use of having a parliament."

Members of parliament argue that they are listening to the people – and the people support whatever the Dalai Lama says.

'Work as [if] there is no Dalai Lama'

To some degree, the Dalai Lama is trying to wean Tibetans off this reliance, repeatedly expressing his desire to "retire" from his political duties. Making the government-in-exile more robust is key to making the Tibetan exile movement sustainable beyond one man. "He always says, 'You should work as though there is no Dalai Lama,' " says Jungney.

To this end, the Dalai Lama has been the architect of his government's democratic reforms. In 1989, he disbanded the parliament, commanding a new one to be formed under a democratic charter. Among other powers, the charter gives parliament the ability to impeach the Dalai Lama as the head of state.

That parliament would ever use this power, however, is unthinkable. Many Tibetans have resisted democratic reform, preferring his leadership. In local communities, many posts meant to be determined by elections remain unfilled, with locals asking the Dalai Lama to send someone instead. "People always think, 'We don't want democracy. We can depend on the goodness of His Holiness,' " says Tashi Phuntsok, the CTA's chief election commissioner.

Yet on the streets of Dharamsala, there is appreciation for the Dalai Lama's reforms. Amid his store of tourist kitsch, shop owner Tenzing Tsering takes pride in drawing a distinction between his government and China's. "In China, [Tibetans] don't have the right to speak even a single word against the government," he says.

Members of the Tibetan Youth Congress agree. "Even if our objectives are different, they will not stop us," says cultural secretary Lhakpa Tsering. Even executive member Dorjee does not dismiss the government-in-exile. When it comes to caring for the needs of the Tibetan refugee community, Dorjee says, "I will give it 100 out of 100 on that ground."

India has given the government-in-exile broad autonomy to rule Tibetan refugees here. The CTA's Department of Education creates its own curriculum. It administers 80 schools in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Another six departments here handle everything from public health to elections for the 43-member parliament, which are held every five years in the subcontinent, Europe, and North America.

Still, Dorjee outlines the challenges ahead, as upheaval in Tibet and a new generation of refugees create pressure for new policies. "The people inside Tibet have raised their voice, and many in parliament wish for independence, too, but they will not speak out for it because it goes against the Dalai Lama," he says. "[But] they must listen to their hearts."

Protests in San Francisco before Olympic torch run

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Several hundred supporters of Tibet marched through the streets of San Francisco on Tuesday to criticize China before the Olympic torch is run through the city the next day.

"Shame on China," chanted the protesters, many carrying Tibetan flags and signs, as they marched through the streets.

They also protested outside the Chinese consulate.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said he had been in contact with French and British officials to gain insight on how the city should handle protesters.

"It won't surprise anyone what we are concerned about. Just look back on your old tape, the last 48 hours," Newsom said, referring to footage of disruptive protests during torch runs in Paris and London.

"I'm not naive to the challenge associated with this event," the mayor said.

Many human rights groups have mobilized in San Francisco, the only U.S. city to host the Olympic torch as it makes its way to the games in Beijing in August. Opposition ranges from China's rule in Tibet to Beijing's policies toward Darfur and Burma. Others are concerned with issues such as animal rights.

Actor Richard Gere and South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu were also due to appear at an evening vigil for Tibet.

"It is fantastic what people have been doing," Archbishop Emeritus Tutu told reporters. He cited in particular three pro-Tibet protesters who scaled the cables of San Francisco's soaring Golden Gate Bridge to hang banners on Monday.

The international torch relay has been protested previously in Greece, Britain and France.

Speaking to San Francisco's World Affairs Council, Tutu said he would not call for a boycott of the Olympics as a protest against China's clampdown on unrest in Tibet, but that world leaders should not attend the games.

"There are times when you are very close to tears," he said of the violence in Tibet.

The protests planned for Wednesday's torch run have irritated some in the city's large ethnic Chinese community, many of whom are proud their ancestral motherland is hosting the global sporting event.


Gere, the chairman of International Campaign for Tibet, said China had itself made the torch run a political event.

"Is it appropriate? I think as long as it is not violent, absolutely," he told Reuters. "This is clearly a moment where China wants to be included in the big leagues."

"They had politicized this, extraordinarily. I think if they had not closed up Everest, decided to run (the torch) through Tibet, this probably would not have happened."

Argentine activists said they planned surprise actions in Buenos Aires when the Olympic torch passes through there on Friday. Organizers told a news conference they would not try to snuff out the torch's flame, as demonstrators had in Paris and London.

"I want to announce that we will not put out the Olympic torch," said pro-Tibet activist Jorge Carcavallo. "We'll be carrying out surprise actions throughout the city of Buenos Aires, but all of these will be peaceful."

In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives was expected to debate a non-binding measure late on Tuesday calling on Beijing to end its crackdown in Tibet.

The measure also would encourage China's government to enter direct talks with the Dalai Lama on finding ways to respect Tibet's culture, religious identity and "fundamental freedoms."

When asked whether Bush was considering boycotting the opening ceremonies, as suggested by Sen. Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said his schedule had not been fixed.

"The key part of what the president can do as the president of the United States is before, during and after the Olympics, push very hard for increased human rights, press freedoms and political freedom in China," she said.

Pressed further on whether Bush's decision to attend the Olympics could be affected by developments, she said: "The president can always make a change. But the president has been clear that this is a sporting event for the athletes, and that pressuring China before, during and after the Olympics is the best way for us to try to help people across the board in China, including Tibetans."

(Additional reporting Jim Christie in San Francisco, Richard Cowan in Washington and Luis Ampuero in Buenos Aires, editing by Patricia Zengerle)

Suu Kyi sends floral basket at Ludu Daw Amar's funeral

Nam Davies
Mizzima News

April 8, 2008 - New Delhi: A group of unidentified persons among the crowd which attended Ludu Daw Amar's funeral left a floral basket sent by Aung San Suu Kyi last night.

The unknown persons left the floral basket containing over 100 rose buds at her residence located on 38th Street where her remains were kept at about 11:30 p.m.

"Yes, it was confirmed that Daw Su sent the floral basket. They were all red rose buds. I suppose that this was arranged by friends from Mandalay. I have no idea who brought it. The floral basket sent by Daw Aung San Su Kyi had a phrase written on the basket," Ludu Daw Amar's son, writer Nyi Pu Lay, told Mizzima.

There was no confirmation how the Nobel Laureate and leader of the NLD, Daw Aung San Su Kyi, sent the floral basket as she is under house arrest. "No one at the funeral saw people who brought it," a source said.

"We sent a floral basket and a floral ring. One was sent by the NLD and the other by Daw Aung San Su Kyi. What we sent were received. It was arranged in coordination with the Mandalay NLD. I have no idea who arranged the basket Daw Aung San Su Kyi sent," NLD spokesperson Nyan Win said.

With her body at her residence on 38th Street there were more than 1,000 people who paid their tributes to Daw Amar. Among them were people from the Burmese literary community.

Although about five people were monitoring the events outside her residence and were taking pictures of people who brought floral rings or floral baskets no one was disturbed in anyway.

Political activists from Rangoon are travelling to Mandalay in order to reach the funeral service on time.

Ludu Daw Amar was 92 years old when she died. Wednesday at 10 a.m. her body will be cremated at Kyar Ni Gan.

European Parliament Members Urge More Pressure on Burma

The Irrawaddy News

April 8, 2008 - Members of the European parliament criticized Burma during a joint hearing of the Development Committee and the Human Rights Subcommittee last week ahead of a potential European Union (EU) resolution on Burma in the near future.

During the hearing on April 2, parliament members spoke out on three topics: that more pressure be put on the Burmese military regime through better targeted sanctions; that the EU raise the question of Burma in its trade negotiations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean); and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

A press release by the European parliament said that despite the sanctions imposed on Burma’s generals and some of their cronies through freezing bank assets, the EU envisaged providing 32 million euros between 2007 and 2010 for health and education in the country.

There was also debate on the merit of sanctions on the Burmese military junta. A German politician from the Green Party, Frijthof Schmidt, said, “Sanctions—which anyway have a limited effect—should be extended to the bank sector for Burmese leaders who conduct their financial business in Singapore, a country which does not support sanctions on Burma.”

But Glenys Kinnock, a member of the European parliament from the United Kingdom, argued that there must be “a positive alternative to sanctions” and that we must “stop pouring money into this country without getting something in return.”

This Berman from the Netherlands said, “No one speaks any more about Burma, even though the situation remains dreadful, human rights are still flouted and there are said to be 1,800 political prisoners. How can the international community and the EU exert more influence, and by what means?”

He also suggested an international embargo on arms—which come mainly from China—and a ban on Burma’s exports of precious stones.

Members from the EU also argued the Burma issue should be raised during talks on a free trade agreement and a partnership and cooperation agreement with members of Asean. China and India were also urged to put pressure on the Burmese junta.

On Tuesday, the European parliament is due to adopt a report on trade and economic relations with Asean in favor of signing a free trade agreement. However, the draft report contended that owing to the current situation in Burma, the country should not be included in the agreement.

Commenting on Burma’s forthcoming referendum on a new constitution, Riberiro e Castro of Portugal said, “We must lay down conditions for their referendum, including a call for the release of political prisoners and Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Schmidt also suggested it was risky for the EU to endorse an election that might meet international standards but would in fact prevent the opposition from standing, as had happened in Iran.

Meanwhile, the London-based Burma Campaign UK said in a briefing and recommendation that the EU had repeatedly failed to understand the true nature of the Burmese regime. “Polite political engagement of the kind that UN envoys have engaged in since 1990 have not produced a single democratic political reform,” said its recommendation.

“The regime will have to be forced to the negotiation table through a combination of political and economic pressure,” said the Burma Campaign UK.

Security Tightens Around ‘Vote No’ Campaign

The Irrawaddy News

April 8, 2008 - The momentum of the “Vote No” campaign against the military-drafted constitution is growing and spreading among the public in urban areas. Meanwhile, the military authorities are tightening security and deploying more security guards in Burma’s main cities.

The “Vote No” campaign started in earnest last week during the country’s Armed Forces Day when more than 30 demonstrators sporting T-shirts declaring “NO” staged a protest in Rangoon urging voters to reject the constitution in the upcoming referendum.

According to a campaign organizer in Burma’s second city, Mandalay, the campaign quickly gained support on April 4 after the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), called on voters to cast a “No” vote in the constitutional referendum next month.

“We have spray-painted “NO” on walls at several locations in the eastern and southern parts of Mandalay,” the campaign organizer said.

The NLD announced last Wednesday that the military-drafted constitution broke the basic principles of democracy and failed to give assurances on democratic values and human rights.

The party, headed by pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, said a “No” vote was necessary because the proposed constitution had not been written by elected representatives of the people, but by “hand-picked puppets” of the regime.

Yesterday, an unknown activist painted “NO” on the entrance sign outside one of Burma’s biggest hotels, the Mya Yeik Nyo Royal Hotel, which is owned by Burmese businessman “Zay Ka Bar” Khin Shwe, a close crony of the military regime in Rangoon.
According to a Rangoon resident, security has been tightening inside Rangoon in the meantime as police take positions in the city and security guards dressed in police uniforms are deployed at each corner of Rangoon’s main streets.

A Burmese woman who recently traveled from Rangoon to Mon State said there are more checkpoints on the route compared to any time before.

According to an article last Saturday in state-run The New Light of Myanmar, there is a possibility of increased “terrorist acts” during the upcoming water festival and the national referendum.

“Terrorist insurgents are active under the pretext of the democracy movements not only in underground areas and border regions but also in above-ground areas and urban areas. They are rising against the government in disguise, and have become audacious to attack and kill the people,” declared The New Light of Myanmar.

Contrasting responses to crackdowns in Tibet and Burma


NEW DELHI — There are striking similarities between Tibet and Burma — both are strategically located, endowed with rich natural resources, suffering under long-standing repressive rule, resisting hard power with soft power and facing an influx of Han settlers. Yet the international response to the brutal crackdown on monk-led protests in Tibet and Burma has been a study in contrast.

When the Burmese crackdown on peaceful protesters in Yangon last September left at least 31 people dead — according to a U.N. special rapporteur's report — it ignited international indignation and a new round of U.S.-led sanctions. More than six months later, the tepid international response to an ongoing harsh crackdown in Tibet by the Burmese junta's closest ally, China, raises the question whether that country has accumulated such power as to escape even censure over actions that are far more repressive and extensive than what Burma witnessed.

Despite growing international appeals to Beijing to respect Tibetans' human rights and cultural identity, and to begin dialogue with the Dalai Lama, there has been no call for any penal action, however mild, against China. Even the leverage provided by the 2008 Beijing Olympics is not being seized upon to help end the repression in the Tibetan region.

When the Burmese generals cracked down on monks and their prodemocracy supporters, the outside world watched vivid images of brutality, thanks to citizen reporters using the Internet. But China employs tens of thousands of cyberpolice to censor Web sites, patrol cybercafes, monitor text and video messages from cellular phones, and hunt down Internet activists. As a result, the outside world has yet to see a single haunting image of the Chinese use of brute force against Tibetans. The only images released by Beijing are those that seek to show Tibetans in bad light, as engaged in arson and other attacks.

The continuing arbitrary arrests of Tibetans through house-to-house searches are a cause of serious concern, given the high incidence of mock trials followed by quick executions in China. That country still executes more people every year than all other nations combined, despite its adoption of new rules requiring a review of death sentences.

The important parallels between Tibet and Burma begin with the fact that Burma's majority citizens — the ethnic Burmans — are of Tibetan stock. It was China's 1950 invasion of Tibet that opened a new Han entrance to Burma.

But now the Han demographic invasion of the Tibetan plateau is spilling over into Burma, with Chinese presence conspicuous in Mandalay city and the areas to the northeast.

Today, the resistance against repressive rule in both Tibet and Burma is led by iconic Nobel laureates, one living in exile and the other under house detention. In fact, the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel peace prize in quick succession for the same reason: For leading a non-violent struggle.

Each is a symbol of soft power, building such moral authority as to command wide international respect and influence.

Yet another parallel is that heavy repression has failed to break the resistance to autocratic rule in both Tibet and Burma. If anything, growing authoritarianism has begun to backfire, as the popular monk-led revolts in Tibet and Burma have highlighted.

Vantage location and rich natural resources underscore the importance of Tibet and Burma. The Tibetan plateau makes up one-fourth of China's landmass. Annexation has given China control over Tibet's immense water resources and mineral wealth, including boron, chromite, copper, iron ore, lead, lithium, uranium and zinc. Most of Asia's major rivers originate in the Tibetan plateau, with their waters a lifeline to 47 percent of the global population living in South and Southeast Asia and China. Through its control over Asia's main source of freshwater and its building of huge dams upstream, China holds out a latent threat to fashion water into a political weapon.

Energy-rich Burma is a land bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. China, however, has succeeded in strategically penetrating Burma, which it values as an entryway to the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. Beijing is now busy completing the Irrawaddy Corridor through Burma involving road, river, rail, port and energy-transport links.

The key difference between Tibet and Burma is that the repression in the former is by an occupying power. Months after the 1949 communist takeover in Beijing, China's People's Liberation Army entered what was effectively a sovereign nation in full control of its own affairs.

At the root of the present Tibet crisis is China's failure to grant the autonomy it promised when it imposed on Tibetans a "17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" in 1951. Instead of agreeing to autonomy, Beijing has actually done the opposite: It has pursued Machiavellian policies by breaking up Tibet as it existed before the invasion, and by seeking to reduce Tibetans to a minority in their own homeland through the state-supported relocation of millions of Han Chinese.

It has gerrymandered Tibet by making Amdo (the present Dalai Lama's birthplace) Qinghai province and merging eastern Kham into the Han provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu. More recently, Chongqing province was carved out of Sichuan.

The traditional Tibetan region is a distinct cultural and economic entity. But with large, heavily Tibetan areas having been severed from Tibet, what is left is just the 1965 creation — the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the central plateau comprising U-Tsang and western Kham, or roughly half of the Tibetan plateau. Yet China has changed even the demographic composition of TAR, where there were hardly any Han settlers before the Chinese annexation.

TAR, home to barely 40 percent of the 6.5 million Tibetans in China, was the last "autonomous region" created by the Chinese communists, the others being Inner Mongolia (1947), Xinjiang (1955), Guangxi Zhuang (1958) and Ningxia (1958). In addition, China has 30 "autonomous prefectures," 120 "autonomous counties" and 1,256 "autonomous townships."

All of the so-called autonomous areas are in minority homelands, which historically were ruled from Beijing only when China itself had been conquered by foreigners — first by the Mongols, and then the Manchu. Today, these areas are autonomous only in name, with that tag designed to package a fiction to the ethnic minorities. Apart from not enforcing its one-child norm in these sparsely populated but vast regions (which make up three-fifths of China's landmass), Beijing grants them no meaningful autonomy. In Tibet, what the ravages of the Cultural Revolution left incomplete, forced "political education" since has sought to accomplish.

China grants local autonomy just to two areas, both Han — Hong Kong and Macau. In the talks it has held with the Dalai Lama's envoys since 2002, Beijing has flatly refused to consider the idea of making Tibet a Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong and Macau. It has also rebuffed the idea of restoring Tibet, under continued Chinese rule, to the shape and size it existed in 1950.

Instead it has sought to malign the Dalai Lama for seeking "Greater Tibet" and pressed a maximalist historical position. Not content with the Dalai Lama's 1987 concession in publicly forsaking Tibetan independence, Beijing insists that he also affirm that Tibet was always part of China. But as the Dalai Lama said in a recent interview, "Even if I make that statement, many people would just laugh. And my statement will not change past history."

Contrary to China's claim that its present national political structure is unalterable to accommodate Tibetan aspirations, the fact is that its constitutional arrangements have continued to change, as underscored by the creation of 47 new supposedly "autonomous" municipalities or counties in minority homelands just between 1984 and 1994, according to the work of Harvard scholar Lobsang Sangay.

Until the latest uprising, Beijing believed its weapon of repression was working well and thus saw no need to bring Tibetans together under one administrative unit, as they demand, or to grant Tibet a status equivalent to Hong Kong and Macau. President Hu Jintao, who regards Tibet as his core political base from the time he was the party boss there, has ruled out any compromise that would allow the Dalai Lama to return home from his long exile in India.

Following the uprising, Hu's line on Tibet is likely to further harden, unless effective international pressure is brought to bear.

The contrasting international response to the repression in Tibet and Burma brings out an inconvenient truth: The principle that engagement is better than punitive action to help change state behavior is applied only to powerful autocratic countries, while sanctions are a favored tool to try and tame the weak. Sanctions against China are also precluded by the fact that the West has a huge commercial stake in that country. But Burma, where its interests are trifling, is a soft target.

So, while an impoverished Burma reels under widening sanctions, a booming China openly mocks the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of countless hundreds of students did not trigger lasting international trade sanctions against Beijing.

No one today is suggesting trade sanctions. But given that Beijing secured the right to host the 2008 Olympics on the promise to improve its human-rights record, the free world has a duty to demand that it end its repression in Tibet or face an international boycott, if not of the Games, at least of the opening ceremony, to which world leaders have been invited. By making the success of this summer's Olympics a prestige issue, China has handed the world valuable leverage that today is begging to be exercised.

This rare opportunity must not be frittered away.

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the privately funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, is a regular contributor to The Japan Times.

The Japan Times