From what I can piece together from a distance, it appears that during the violence that broke out in Lhasa two weeks ago, a mob of mostly young Tibetan laypeople did kill and injure Han Chinese. However, I don’t believe monks were involved in that.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in exile for 49 years. My understanding is that younger Tibetans may still revere him, but they don’t necessarily listen to him.
There’s a good background article on Tibet in the Wall Street Journal. Basically, Chinese government officials are idiots.
It should be no surprise that beatings of monks and closings of monasteries naturally stimulate civil unrest, or that civil unrest, spawned in this way, can turn violent.
Why aren’t these simple truths more obvious? Phuntsog Wanggyal, a Tibetan now retired in Beijing who for years was a leading Communist official in Tibet, has observed that a doctrine of “anti-splittism” has taken root among Chinese government officials who deal with religion and minority affairs, both in central offices in Beijing and in Tibet. Having invested their careers in anti-splittism, these people cannot admit that the idea is mistaken without losing face and, they fear, losing their own power and position as well.
Their ready-made tag for everything that goes wrong is “hostile foreign forces” — an enemy that justifies any kind of harsh or unreasoning repression. When repeated endlessly, anti-splittism, although originally vacuous, does take on a kind of solidity. Careers are made in it, and challenging it becomes impossible.
Sounds a lot like the Bush Administration. Who needs reality when you’ve got a good talking point?