The Chinese occupation of Tibet and the likely development of more aggressive Tibetan protests, quite possibly even culminating in a Tibetan liberation insurgency, have already been commented on in a previous posting here. The death toll is currently estimated at as high as 120, although Chinese authorities maintain the death toll at 22.
The effects of this protest are likely to extend far beyond the Tibetan and Chinese borders.
The 2008 Olympics have created the perfect platform for those opposed to the Tibetan occupation to make their discontent known. The most obvious symbol of the Olympics is the torch, and securing the torch during the traditional relay journey is a task whose difficulty cannot – and should not – be underestimated. The torch was lit on March 24, 2008 in Olympia, Greece, the home of the ancient Olympics, and will travel 137,000 kilometers across six continents en route to Beijing, China. Tibet is one of the countries it will travel through and while sports authorities in the country have already taken measures to ensure the security of the torch. However, Tibet is by no means the only place where the torch’s relay may be used to publicize the opposition to the occupation of Tibet.
Responsibility for protecting the torch passes along the route from authority to authority. What in the past has been a traffic issue has become a legitimate public order problem: how can you prevent someone who is determined to make a political point through dramatic and photogenic action from doing so? The torch relay will become the ultimate “Not on my watch” problem, with policemen on six continents hoping to protect a series of relay runners moving through their territory against the most random and unpredictable of threats.
However, the torch is a small distraction compared to the events currently unfolding in Tibet, events that are likely to become the focus of international attention in the coming months, and events that I suspect will provoke a steady stream of commentary across this website.