Washington, Mar 28 : The decision of Chinese leaders to use military force and restrict media access to control the riots in Tibet two weeks ago has cast a shadow over hopes for an unblemished Olympics Games.
The uprising in the remote Himalayan region lasted for barely more than a day, but it generated a worldwide swell of concern.
Now, the Olympic Games, intended to be a festive coming-out party for modern China, could become a dramatic reminder that the Communist Party still relies on Leninist police tactics and Orwellian censorship to enforce its monopoly on power, according to the Washington Post.
"This is exactly what the party leaders didn't want," said Li Datong, a senior magazine editor who was fired in 2006 after an essay in his publication challenged the party's official history.
"This has become a real headache for them," the paper quoted Li, as saying.
The fallout from Tibet has not subsided. In Ancient Olympia on Monday, pro-Tibet protesters disrupted a ceremony to light the Olympic torch.
On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested there might be a boycott of the Games' opening ceremony.
And on Thursday, as Chinese authorities led foreign reporters on a tour of region in an effort to demonstrate that it had been tamed, a group of monks confronted the journalists, shouting that they were being denied religious freedom.
Criticisms of China on human rights issues have long been rife among foreign activists and some governments, analysts noted, but the Tibet crisis raised their global prominence just as the Olympic games provided a ready forum to push the message.
The protesters who disrupted the torch ceremony in Greece, for instance, got attention on a level that they could not have dreamed of before the riots in Tibet on March 14, the Post said.
"The leadership could be riding a real tiger with the Tibet issue, in terms of foreign opinion," said David L. Shambaugh, director of the China policy program at George Washington University and author of a new book on the Chinese Communist Party.
"Various and sundry nongovernmental human rights activists smell blood, and they will all be using Tibet to press their causes as well. This will place unprecedented external pressure on the regime, at least in terms of public relations," he added.
With Tibet unrest having seized the public's imagination abroad, the Chinese government already has lost its battle to keep politics out of the Olympics, said Li, the editor.
He said the government should brace itself for an onslaught of protests over Tibet, Darfur, human rights and other causes before and during the Games, both in China and outside.