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The Roof of the World

[originally published on, 2008]i

“[Tibet] sits on a high plateau at 13,000 to 16,400 feet, hence its

nickname ‘the roof of the world.’ The capital, Lhasa, lies in a valley
shielding it from the harshest weather.”
- A.P.

“Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule turned violent in

Tibet's capital Friday, with shops and vehicles torched and gunshots
echoing through the streets of the ancient city.”
- Binaj Gurubacharya, Associated Press Writer

Harsh winds are slicing through the Himalayas these days. Violence is
erupting from Buddhist protests, which is itself a phrase so mired in
backward-facing logic that getting a hold of the scene requires a certain
suspension of disbelief. Buddhist monks don't turn violent. And if they do,
surely it would not involve gunshots.

Well, perhaps. The rebellion turned serious following the 49th anniversary of
Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10th, 2008. In the days following,
well over one hundred protesters were feared dead after a Chinese
"crackdown" on dissent. A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, Qin
Gang, understated, “In the past couple of days, a few monks in Lhasa have
made some disturbances in an effort to cause unrest."

From China's perspective, a handful of monks are causing unrest, a deft Twirl
of Logic that puts the onus on Tibet and ignores the fact that the unrest in
question is, in actuality, an effect. The cause was China's military takeover of
Tibet in 1951, which threw Communism and Religion into a dramatic war of
perspectives. Tibetan monks hoped to maintain a free state to practice their
Buddhist teachings, while China viewed this freedom as "splitist," and the
movement's leader, the Dalai Lama, as intentionally defiant. Through
Communist goggles, though, I suspect one can spot plenty of defiance and
general troublemaking running amok in the world at large.

The feud from '51 has been ongoing, and is now boiling over as China draws
the gaze of all nations in its stage-setting of the Beijing Olympics this year.
Tibet sees a potential for publicity where China spots an intense amount of
stifling to be in order. Still, it's hard to sympathize with an ideology focused
on a militaristic squelching of behavior when its primary opponent is a
religious man seeking peaceful reflection. Nobody likes a bully.

So, intense youths are aggressively protesting Chinese imperialism, while

the Dalai Lama practices restrained moderation and hunger strikes continue
in Kathmandu. This Tibetan struggle against Chinese takeover is spurring a
clash of objection methods, each with its own degree of frustration and
angst. The Tibetan Plateau, so-called "roof of the world," is now sheltering a
volatile batch of feelings - the tinderbox for an Olympic torch that is set to
throw some light onto this conflict for all the world to see.
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