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Tension mounts between China and Dalai Lama

Latest update : 2008-03-19

Despite the Dalai Lama's resignation offer, the Chinese government continues to place the responsibility for last week's violence on him.

See photos on FRANCE 24's Observers


Calling for an end to the bloodshed that has rocked Tibet in recent days, the Dalai Lama offered to resign from his position as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile on Tuesday.


"If things get totally out of control then my only option is to resign," said the spiritual head of the Tibetan people at a news conference Tuesday in Dharamsala, the northern Indian town where he has lived in exile since he fled Tibet in 1959.


The Nobel peace laureate reiterated that he does not support violence and is not seeking independence for the Himalayan region.


The statement came in response to Beijing’s accusation that the Dalai Lama was behind the recent riots that have rocked Tibet. "There is ample fact and plenty of evidence proving this incident was organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," Premier Wen Jiabao told a news conference in Beijing earlier on Tuesday. "This has all the more revealed the consistent claims by the Dalai clique that they pursue not independence but peaceful dialogue are nothing but lies," he added.


According to the Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamsala, 19 Tibetan protesters were shot dead Tuesday in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu. A Tibetan exile group, the UK-based Free Tibet Campaign, on Tuesday published photographs it said showed the bodies of Tibetans killed by Chinese forces at the Kirti Monastery in the Aba county of Sichuan province. (The monastery is the sister institution to the monastery of the same name in Dharamsala).


Both accounts however, were impossible to confirm.


According to Jean-Bernard Cadier, a FRANCE 24 international affairs specialist, the Dalai Lama’s declaration “suggests that he wants to see an end to the crisis rather than an aggravation of the situation. It is an attempt to portray an image of openness and of seeking dialogue rather than talking about (Chinese) repression and denouncing the methods employed by the Chinese government.”


The tone of the Dalai Lama’s declaration contrasted sharply with his earlier statements that suggested a “cultural genocide” was in progress in Tibet. The Dalai Lama had also earlier called for an international investigation into the recent violence.


A blackout more than ever before


The situation in Tibet remains confusing. The official Chinese death toll of 13 killed in the recent riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa differs sharply from the 99 death toll put forth by the Tibetan government in exile. “There is a blackout more than ever before,” said Sébastien Le Belzic, FRANCE 24’s Beijing correspondent.


The international media have been denied access to Lhasa. On Tuesday, the official Chinese TV station showed images of a peaceful city, with students going to universities and market places full of shoppers.


An official silence on Beijing’s Monday midnight deadline for rioters to hand themselves over was finally broken on Tuesday night, when an official said 100 people had given themselves up to police for participating in the Lhasa riots, state television reported.



No calls for Olympic boycott 


The latest anti-China protests began March 10, the 49th anniversary of the Lhassa uprising, which resulted in the Dalai Lama’s exile to India. “In his March 10, 2008 speech in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama denounced the human right violations in China, particularly those related to the freedom of religion,” explained Cadier. “His speech followed a series of arrests during the Tibetan celebrations in China commemorating the Dalai Lama’s receipt of the American Congressional Medal of Honor.”


Since the 1990s, the Dalai Lama has tempered his stance on Tibetan independence and has adopted a “middle of the road” policy, simply claiming cultural autonomy for his homeland. He has not strayed from this policy, nor has he called for a boycott of the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing in Aug. 2008.



“The Chinese have treated the Dalai Lama like bin Laden, like a terrorist,” said Kunsang Chophel, a 53 year-old Tibetan restaurant owner who has lived in Paris for 30 years. “But as long as he is alive, the Tibetans and Chinese should reach a compromise. Once he is gone, the younger generations will become much more radical. I experienced this first-hand on my last trip to Tibet, a year ago.”


As if to confirm these remarks, on Monday the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Youth Congress broke from the traditionally moderate position of the Dalai Lama. Its president, Tsewang Rigzin, urged “Tibetans to continue their demonstrations until China leaves Tibet.” He added that China “is not worthy” to host the Olympics.


Date created : 2008-03-18