In a monastery on the Tibetan plateau, monks swathed in crimson robes chant under silk hangings, in a murky hall heavy with the smell of yak butter. Photos of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama — seen by China as a splittist — are openly displayed, as if in defiance. But Chinese security forces have tightened their grasp on this region, and monasteries appear to be emptying out, gripped by an atmosphere of fear and loss.
Jiang Shixue is describing to me one of the most exciting moments of his life: The moment earlier this month when one of the most important people in Europe — German Chancellor Angela Merkel — came to visit his workplace.
"She said that the EU would be happy to see if China can offer a kind of helping hand," says Jiang, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.