With the recent outbreak of violence in Tibet and the Dalai Lama threatening to step down, Josh Kurlantzick’s story from last year titled “The End of Tibet” is starting to look more prescient than ever. For a hard, thoughtful look at what it’s like in modern day Tibet, check out Kurlantzick’s piece here. Rolling Stone also caught up with Kurlantzick and got his perspective on what has happened since his piece, which you can read after the jump.
What has happened in the year since your piece ran?
The point of this is that it’s not just one year. This has been building under the surface for a long time. It shouldn’t be surprising. That’s the point I tried to make in the piece. It’s been simmering for so long, that it only takes a minor spark — like a scuffle between monks and Chinese police — for the whole thing to go up. Repression in Tibet has been severe for a long time. I don’t think it’s been that much worse this past year, but the Olympics has given the Chinese ample opportunity for more.
Do you think the Dalai Lama will step down, as he has said he might?
I don’t think the Dalai Lama is going to step down. He’s not the political leader and hasn’t been for decades, but it reflects his frustration. He may be a holy man, but he’s only a man. He’s not a perfect person. He’s a frustrated man.
Will the recent coverage be an opportunity for improvement, or will it drive China to ratchet up its opression?
In general, the Olympics is an opportunity to put pressure on China. I think it’s lead to China’s human rights record in other ways. I think it’s allowed activists on other issues like Darfur to put pressure on China. The Chinese refuse to give ground on Tibet, even when they’ve given ground on other issues. It might put pressure on China, but in the case of Tibet, China has most of the cards. Some of the stuff that’s been brought up in the article has been reflected in the coverage of it now. There’s a lot of frustration among young Tibetans. The Chinese prime minister seems to be willing to talk to the Dalai Lama, which people think is great, but they’ve been talking to the Dalai Lama for a long time, and I get the sense that they’re just waiting for the Dalai Lama to die. It’s a stall tactic.