Dalai Lama assails China one year after uprising


By Edward Wong Published: March 10, 2009

BEIJING: The Dalai Lama on Tuesday delivered one of his harshest attacks in recent times on the Chinese government, saying that the Chinese Communist Party had transformed Tibet into a “hell on earth” and that the Chinese authorities regarded Tibetans as “criminals deserving to be put to death.”

“Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction,” the 73-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader said.

Those words came during a blistering speech Tuesday morning in Dharamsala, India, the Himalayan hill town that is the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Tibetans outside of China and their supporters held rallies around the world Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The Chinese military crushed the rebellion, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee across the Himalayas to India.

The furious tone of the Dalai Lama’s speech may have been in reaction to a new clampdown by China throughout the Tibetan regions. The Dalai Lama might also have adopted an angry approach to placate younger Tibetans who have accused the Dalai Lama of being too conciliatory toward China. The Dalai Lama has advocated greater autonomy for Tibet and not secession, while more radical Tibetans are urging the Dalai Lama to support outright independence.

In the rugged Tibetan regions of China, where there is widespread resentment at Chinese rule, no reports emerged Tuesday of any large-scale protests. The Chinese government, fearing civil unrest among six million Tibetans, has locked down the vast area, which encompasses up to a quarter of China, by sending in thousands of troops over the last few weeks and cutting off cellphone and Internet services in some locations. An unofficial state of martial law now exists, with soldiers and police officers operating checkpoints, marching through streets and checking people for identification cards.

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Tibetan monk ‘shot’ while on fire

From the BBC

A Tibetan monk has been shot after setting fire to himself during a protest at Beijing’s rule, reports say.

The incident happened in the Tibetan-populated town of Aba in southwest China’s Sichuan province during a gathering of more than 1,000 monks.

The monk, named Tapey, is said to have shouted slogans and waved a Tibetan flag, then doused himself with petrol and set himself alight.

Campaign groups said witnesses then saw Chinese police shoot the man.

Banned meeting

The monk collapsed and was taken away by the police.

China’s official Xinhua news agency confirmed a man had set himself on fire, saying he was taken to a hospital and treated for burns injuries. It made no mention of any gunshot wounds.

The protest began after more than 1,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks gathered at a temple in the town to celebrate the third day of the Tibetan new year.

Chinese officials had earlier banned the gathering.

After the incident, news agencies reported a heavy police presence on the streets of the town.

“There are many policemen on patrol in the street and all of them have guns,” an employee at a teahouse in Aba told the AFP news agency.

It is extremely difficult to independently confirm any information coming out of Tibetan areas.

China’s authorities have restricted access to the region.

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the escape into exile of the Dalai Lama and China wants to make sure there are no Tibetan protests in support of the exiled spiritual leader like those of a year ago, says the BBC’s James Reynolds in Beijing.

More than 200 Tibetans are thought to have been killed in a Chinese crackdown in the region, which it has ruled since an invasion in 1950.

China claims Tibet is part of its historic territory, but Tibetan groups in exile regard the invasion as a tragedy.