Separatist Movements

April 2008 • Volume 2, Issue 4
Should nations have a right to self-determination?
By Brian Beary

Introduction

Angry Tibetans in London protest China's recent crackdown on separatists in Lhasa, Tibet.  Dozens were killed during the violence in Lhasa, which occurred on the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation of Tibet.  (Scoopt/Getty Images/Tanya Nagar)
Angry Tibetans in London protest China's recent crackdown on separatists in Lhasa, Tibet. Dozens were killed during the violence in Lhasa, which occurred on the 49th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese occupation of Tibet. (Scoopt/Getty Images/Tanya Nagar)

When Kosovo declared its independence on Feb. 17, thousands of angry Serbs took to the streets to protest the breakaway region's secession from Serbia. Less than a month later, Chinese authorities battled Buddhist monks in Lhasa, the legendary capital of Tibet, where separatist resentments have been simmering since China occupied the Himalayan region more than 50 years ago. The protests were the latest flashpoints in some two dozen separatist “hot spots” — the most active of roughly 70 such movements around the globe. They are part of a post-World War II independence trend that has produced a nearly fourfold jump in the number of countries worldwide, with 26 of those new countries emerging just since 1990. Some nations, like the far-flung Kurds and the Sri Lankan Tamils, are fighting fiercely to establish a homeland, while others — like Canada's Québécois — seem content with local autonomy. A handful have become de facto states that are as-yet-unrecognized by the U.N., including Somaliland, Taiwan, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

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