Dispatches from the Empire

17 March 2008

Writing an End to History in Tibet

Chinese soliders on patrol in Lhasa, copyright ReutersHistory never really ends, it just gets written off. Yesterday I mentioned the disquiet of the past, how history as a judgemental narrative is always contested, always one step removed from something that might only just resemble the truth. It’s easy to say that we need facts to clear our vision, to help us see what really happened. But more often than not facts are handed out like bribes, and events are carefully framed. Take, for instance, the current happenings in Tibet.

Unlike much turmoil in the world today, and much in the pages of the past, the riots in Lhasa are not generating a great deal of confusion. Motives, by and large, are certain, and the chronology is sound. Monks protesting in support of Tibetan independence were joined by less serene compatriots, who took to the streets rioting, looting and destroying what they could. The Chinese police fought back and then the central government sent in the army, which has effectively locked down the city.

Personnel carriers versus fleeing civilians – the classic mismatch of civil disorder.

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