The Olympic torch has arrived in its first Tibetan Autonomous county, and will arrive in Lhasa later this month.
Reuters gives us this report of the torch’s visit to Shangri-La in Yunnan province, with responses both positive and negative from Tibetans in China:
“I have been really moved to see the Olympic flame in a Tibetan area,” said Sunnuo Qilin, a 25-year-old Tibetan man from a village in the hills who was carrying a Beijing Olympics flag.
Asked whether he thought there was merit to the argument that the torch should not be brought into Tibetan areas while there is still tension, he replied: “fei hua” — the Chinese equivalent of “baloney”.
Silan Quzhen, another ethnic Tibetan, took leave from her job in a restaurant and waited for several hours on the street for the torch to go by.
“There was no trouble in Yunnan province when other areas had trouble, so it is not an issue bringing the torch here. I can say 100 percent there wasn’t going to be a problem here,” she said.
At the Sumtseling monastery, home to about 800 red-robe wearing monks, one devotee said even if he had been free in the morning he wouldn’t have gone to see the flame.
“It shouldn’t have come here. It’s a little offensive to the Tibetans,” he said.
The first torch carrier is Ma Bajing, a Tibetan horse-skill champion. In one of his interviews, he says this:
As a Tibetan rider, I want to use the torch relay to tell everyone, that our people’s traditional sports movement, just like the Olympic Spirit, will never be lost.
Of the 208 torch-carriers in Shangri-La, 127 were non-Han minorities. Approximately 1/3rd of all torch-carriers were Tibetan.
The fact that some Tibetans would find the torch “a little offensive” isn’t a surprise. The fact that many Tibetans embrace the Olympic torch as a shared prize for all Chinese people should also be a surprise, not after so many Tibetans risked their lives in helping to bring the Olympic torch to the top of Mount Everest.
From a netizen journalist in Tianya, students rushing to get to position:
PS. Does the Reuters report suggest that Western reporters can now gain access to at least some Tibetan areas?