The New York TImes reports that the first sentences have been handed down by a Chinese court for violence in Tibet. People received prison sentences ranging from 20 years to life for charges like destruction of property and disruption of public order. Presumably the death sentences, for murder or manslaughter, will be announced after the Olympics (although I now have a sense that there is a potentially important attitude shift from “what will whitey think?” to “just let whitey shit his pants.”)
People will now doubt point out that these sentences are evidence of human rights violations in Tibet. Sure, those young Chinese who burned down a Japanese department store in Chengdu in 2005 as protest against Japanese trivialisation of war crimes did not receive life sentences; nor did those who threw stones at the US Embassy in Peking in 1999 in protest against the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. In a particularly striking contrast, also reported in this article, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman defended as “natural” the behaviour Chinese students who clashed with South Korean demonstrators on the Seoul leg of the unfortunate torch relay; they, as she explained, were “defending their country’s honour.” But these differences are political, not ethnic. A Han Chinese caught in an anti-government protest would not be treated any better.