Both China and followers of the Dalai Lama in Tibet need to return to peaceful means.
Police violence against last week's protests in Tibet put a harsh light on China's claim of a "peaceful rise" to global prominence. But then the riots by the Dalai Lama's followers also reveal frustration at his call for nonviolent resistance against Chinese rule. Which way will resolve Tibet's uneasy status at the roof of the world?
The protests began peacefully enough. Last Monday in the capital, Lhasa, about 300 monks used an anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising – the one that forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India – to demonstrate against the imprisonment of some fellow monks. When a few monks were hurt and arrested, more protests followed. That led to major street riots Friday and protests in other parts of Tibet.
As many as 80 people may have been killed – a slaughter that begins to approach the killings during the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests in Beijing.
By Sunday, Chinese leaders had effectively imposed martial law on the region. The Dalai Lama called for an outside investigation into what he calls "cultural genocide" of Tibet's way of life, especially suppression of Buddhist practices.
Coming months before the Olympics in Beijing, this heavy hand against freedom protests has seriously compromised China's coming-out party on the world stage. Troops may still be in Lhasa's streets even as athletes are winning medals in Beijing.
Chinese leaders need to return to unconditional talks with the Dalai Lama. He has shown extreme patience for decades, even letting go of his demand for independence in favor of "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet. Nonviolent means can find a nonviolent response.