Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of China’s suppression of the Tibetan uprising. This year, Tibetans in Tibet and in exile have noted this event by observing the normally festive Tibetan New Year, or Losar, as a time of mourning and remembrance. Unable to tolerate even this mild protest, the Chinese government has ordered Tibetans to attend state-sponsored celebrations and has ramped up security. On Feb. 27, a monk in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province set himself on fire after the authorities blocked his monastery from conducting Losar prayers. Chinese police shot him three times while he was on fire, though state media now claim he’s alive in a hospital. It seems clear Beijing intends to maintain its current hardline approach to Tibet.
Compounding matters, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dismissive comments about the limits of diplomacy in advancing human rights last month will likely be seen in Beijing as tacit permission to do what it feels necessary to maintain “stability” on the Tibetan plateau. In the coming months, Secretary Clinton may find that her glib remarks served to exacerbate the human rights crisis in Tibet and undercut America’s ability to use diplomacy to address it.