The month of March has turned into a field of contention in a struggle for the ownership of Tibet’s historical memory. Tibetans claim March 10, the day the 1959 Tibetan uprising erupted in Lhasa, as a national day, and this year China has been forced to take drastic measures to contain any hint of it. At the same time, China has staked out a new holiday in order to commemorate the suppression of that same uprising: March 28 is henceforth to be »Serfs Emancipation Day.« There is nothing subtle about all this—China is quite determined to dominate the Tibetan historical view, whether or not coercion or even force is necessary.
A combination of factors has come together, including Tibetan awareness of China's sensitivity to negative international attention in the build-up to the Olympics and the arrival of March 10, the day when Tibetans mark the 1959 uprising against China. But the most important element has to be the persistent, underlying resentment of China's presence in Tibet. The banned Tibetan national flag has been unfurled in Lhasa and on its streets the familiar cry for Tibet's independence has been shouted.