Here's a pretty good column by Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, arguing that the protests that have developed around the Olympic torch and threats to boycott the Olympics scheduled for Beijing in August not only won't work but are likely to have the perverse effect of stiffening Chinese stubbornness and sense of self-righteousness. I wouldn't be surprised if he's right that private pressure discreetly applied might be more effective than "face-destroying" public protests. Nonetheless, I hope the public protests continue. There's almost zero chance that anything will induce the Chinese to give up their claims to Tibet this year or any foreseeable mid-range future year. But the Chinese think in terms of decades and centuries, and the protests, especially if combined with a meeting with the Dalai Lama (unlikely in my view despite Zakaria's hopes) and a gradual reconsideration of the costs and benefits of continuing to "Sinify"Tibet could lead to a relaxation of controls and perhaps even more autonomy. Institutionally it's the Communist Party running things, but at this point they're much more pragmatic then ideological.
Here's a pretty good piece by journalist Don North that might help put some of the Tibetan issues in context.