An Open Tibet: 4 / 30

April 11, 2008

4 of 30 from the Open Tibet series.


Above: The Potala Palace as seen from a rooftop, early morning. The old, eastern, Tibetan part of Lhasa is very low — at most four stories per building as can be seen in this photograph.

I never made it inside the Potala Palace during my stay. The logistics of getting tickets combined with the somewhat sad nature of it being in a state of disuse left me content to view from afar. I spent my afternoons contemplating below and off to the side of the structure — in its shadow — which was powerful and satisfying enough for me.

Watching the pilgrims prostrate themselves on the sidewalk in front of the palace is breathtaking in a way only selfless devotion can be. The fact that many repeat this over and over, some for spans of hundreds of kilometers is even more inspiring. If you're the ritualistic masochistic type and interested in trying it out, here's some steps on how to properly prostrate oneself.

Today's Somewhat Related News:
35 were arrested over a terrorist plot for the Beijing Olympics:

Chinese authorities arrested 35 suspects during a 10-day series of raids that ended on Sunday, according to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security.

The raids in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, also netted about 21 pounds (9.5 kg) of explosives, eight detonators, two explosive devices, and some propaganda materials for "holy war."

"We know that their goal was very clear -- that is, specifically to sabotage the staging of the Beijing Olympics," Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan said.

Perhaps most shocking isn't the terrorism plot but that the Chinese Government didn't blame it on the Dalai Lama.

Speaking of whom, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader expressed support for the Olympics while stopping over in Japan:

“We are not anti-Chinese,” he said at a news conference at Tokyo’s main international airport in Narita. “Right from the beginning, we supported the Olympic Games.” Speaking of pro-Tibetan protesters, he said nobody “has the right to tell them to shut up.”

He faulted Beijing for suppressing antigovernment unrest in Tibet last month, saying its use of violence was “an outdated method” that did not solve the underlying problems. That unrest, the most severe in the region in two decades, and the resulting Chinese crackdown have touched off sympathy protests around the world, with demonstrators demanding greater freedom in Tibet.

His Holiness also expressed concerns about his demonization by the Chinese Government:

On Thursday, the Dalai Lama said he was not behind the disturbances, calling the Chinese claims “a serious allegation.”

“I really feel very sad the government demonizes me,” he said. “I am just a human. I am not a demon.”

He said the root of the problem was China’s heavy-handed rule of Tibet, which he fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese control.

“Autonomy is just in name,” he said, referring to China’s position that it gives Tibetans a large measure of self-rule. “It is not sincerely implemented.”

Meanwhile the International Olympic Committee calls the protests a crisis but not a show-stopper:

"It is a crisis, there's no doubt about that," Rogge said at a news conference in Beijing. "But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms."

Despite the protests -- which have centered around human rights in Tibet -- the torch relay will go on, but Rogge said organizers will reconsider holding such international relays for future Olympic Games.

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