Till now, analysts have been talking and writing only of the dangersof cyber-terrorism to States and civil societies.
2. China has, for the first time, experienced the lethal force ofCyber Democracy and has started showing signs of fears of its likelyimpact on the stability of the authoritarian Chinese State and itsclosely-controlled civil society.
3. The uprising of large sections of the Tibetans against what theyperceive as the Han colonisation of their traditional homeland andsuppression of their Buddhist religion, which started in Lhasa onMarch 10,2008, and has been continuing since then in various forms,has been planned and orchestrated by Tibetan youth located indifferent parts of the world. Hundreds of Tibetan youth living indifferent democratic countries, who had never met each other and whocame to know each other only through Internet chat rooms anddiscussion groups, pooled their ideas together and decided to takeadvantage of the year of the Beijing Olympics to launch a movement forTibetan independence and democracy under the leadership of the TibetanYouth Congress (TYC).
4. Even if the movement is ultimately crushed after a few weeks byChina's Neo Red Guards, who are dictating the policy on Tibet, withthe help of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), the third TibetanUprising of 2008--- the earlier two having taken place in the 1950sand the 1980s--- will go down in history as the first people'srevolution made possible by the power of the Internet's connectivity.This revolution might be crushed ultimately by the PLA, but neitherthe PLA nor the Chinese intelligence will be able to eradicate thispower.
5.Not only the Chinese, but even His Holiness the Dalai Lama and hisclose advisers were taken totally by surprise by the manner in whichyoung Tibetan boys and girls---- with the help of their youngnon-Tibetan friends in different civil societies--- planned thisuprising sitting behind their personal computers and had their plansexecuted.
6. The Chinese as well as His Holiness and his advisers are worriedover the dilution of their control over the youth and its implicationsfor the future of Tibet. His Holiness was in favour of only a peacefulmovement coinciding with the Olympics in support of the ethnic andreligious rights of the Tibetans. He did not want an anti-BeijingOlympics movement, but young Tibetan boys and girls, wielding thepower of the Internet, turned it into a global movement against theBeijing Olympics. His repeated appeals against any attempts tosabotage the Olympics have fallen on deaf ears till now.
7. The initial Chinese response was to close down all servers beingused by the Tibetans and try to impose an iron curtain on theInternet. They found this very difficult to achieve. There wereseepages through the Iron Curtain They realised that the Iron Curtain,which served the purpose of the USSR, cannot serve the purpose of theChinese State in this age of the Internet.
8. The Ministry of Public Security, which is China's internalintelligence and security agency, then decided to counter-attack theTibetan youth and their foreign supporters doing unto them what theywere doing unto the Chinese. Young Internet-literate Chinese boys andgirls, not only in the overseas Chinese diaspora,, but also in theChinese civil society were mobilised to unleash a counter-campaignagainst the Tibetan youth and their foreign supporters.
9. Young Chinese boys and girls, who were indignant over what they sawas acts of anti-Han brutality of the Tibetans and the distortedprojection of the events by the Western media and human rightsorganisations, joined in the Internet-based campaign against theTibetans and their foreign supporters. The outpouring of theirpatriotism was as impressive as the outpouring of the patriotism ofthe American people after the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the UShomeland by Al Qaeda.
10. The beginning of the patriotic campaign was state-inspired anddirected, but after a few days, it assumed a momentum, direction andflavour of its own.There were indications of a xenophobia and all thecontrols, which the Chinese State had been exercising on the use ofthe Internet, started showing signs of melting away. The moderatorsnominated by the Ministry of Public Security to moderate thisInternet-based campaign and to prevent it from taking directions whichcould be detrimental to the Chinese State, found themselves unable tomoderate effectively.
11.Fears that the exercise in controlled Cyber Psywar launched by theMinistry could turn into an uncontrollable exercise in CyberDemocracy with criticism of not only the Tibetans and their foreignsupporters, but also of the Chinese leadership itself for lettingitself be taken by surprise have caused the Chinese authorities to tryto apply brakes on the campaign. The Chinese are also worried that themounting anti-foreigner feelings as a result of this Internet-basedcampaign might lead to unpleasant incidents against foreigners duringthe Olympics.
12.The Ministry of Public Security and the offices of the CommunistParty in different parts of the country have reportedly been tellingthe young Chinese that they have achieved their patriotic purpose andthat it is now time to cool it.
13.But will they be able to? (19-4-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre ForChina Studies. E-mail:email@example.com )