I recently mentioned in passing that the Chinese government does have experience with some degree of autonomy for provinces, notably Hong Kong and Macau (though not the supposedly autonomous provinces of Tibet or Xinjiang). It turns out that the people of Hong Kong are now demanding a much greater form of real autonomy than they presently have.
The current political system there is horribly arcane, with half of the legislature elected by the people, and the other half picked by various smaller constituencies (bankers, lawyers, etc.) The chief executive is picked by a small group of 800, most of whom are themselves picked by the same constituencies. Moreover, China exerts a great deal of influence in terms of who can and can't run.
Some of those in the legislature are real democrats, pushing to increase self-rule and such. However, that movement has since splintered, leading to greater chaos. At the same time (and probably related), the actual protests for more self-rule have gotten more violent and contentious.
So, perhaps my hopes for real autonomy for Tibet are ill-founded. But I must maintain some hope that China will find its best interest is in helping its citizens realize their aspirations, rather than continuing to quash them. Hopefully, it will see these protests in Tibet and Hong Kong both in that light.