Dalai Lama: Chinese rule in Tibet has created ‘hell on Earth’
Tibetan spiritual leader tells thousands of supporters that Chinese martial law devastated Himalayan region
Tania Branigan in Beijing
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 March 2009 08.21 GMT
The Dalai Lama offers prayers during a gathering at his palace temple in Dharamsala. Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
In a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent him into exile, he called for genuine autonomy for Tibet and told thousands of supporters that Chinese martial law and hardline policies such as the cultural revolution had devastated the Himalayan region.
“These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on Earth,” he told around 2,000 supporters in Dharamsala, the north Indian hill town that is home to the exiled Tibetan government.
“Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them.”
The Dalai Lama condemned the “brutal crackdown” in the region after protests last year turned violent.
He warned that Tibetan culture and identity were “nearing extinction”.
The group gathered in a courtyard that separates the Dalai Lama’s home from the town’s main temple. Monks blowing enormous conch shells and long brass horns heralded his arrival.
Despite the unusually strong comments, he also reiterated his support for the “middle way” – which calls for significant Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule – and urged that any change should come peacefully.
“I have no doubt that the justice of Tibetan cause will prevail if we continue to tread a path of truth and nonviolence,” he said.
After his speech, thousands of young Tibetans took to the streets of Dharmsala, chanting “China Out!” and “Tibet belongs to Tibetans!”
Protesters also marched in support of the Tibetans in New Delhi, Seoul and the Australian capital, Canberra, where four of about 300 protesters were arrested after scuffles with police outside the Chinese embassy.
Yesterday, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, called for a “great wall” of stability after angry crowds had hurled homemade explosives in a Tibetan area of Qinghai province, damaging police cars, state media reported.
The unrest broke out after police stopped a truck at a checkpoint during a clampdown across Tibet and areas of western China with large Tibetan communities.
It was not known who threw the devices, which are fairly common in China.
This month is doubly sensitive, given last year’s riots in Lhasa and the subsequent disturbances. Increased numbers of armed police are patrolling Tibetan areas and extra troops are guarding Tibet’s borders.
“We should build a solid great wall to oppose the separatists, uphold the unity of the motherland and advance Tibet from basic stability to lasting stability,” Hu said in comments aired on state television.
He served as the Communist party’s secretary in the region during protests in 1989.
Anti-Chinese riots broke out in Lhasa last March, apparently after peaceful protests to mark the 1959 rebellion were suppressed.
Officials said 22 people, mostly Chinese, were killed, while the Tibetan government in exile claimed scores died in the crackdown which ensued as unrest rippled across Tibetan areas.
Human rights and exile groups yesterday said hundreds of people detained during the disturbances remained unaccounted for.
Kang Jinzhong, the Communist party commissar of the people’s armed police in Tibet, told the state news agency Xinhua he expected no unrest, but said anti-riot forces were ready.
A senior border official said China had also deployed troops along the frontier between Tibet and south Asia.
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