Sunday, March 16, 2008

80 killed, as cultural genocide continues in Tibet

Dalai Lama condemns 'cultural genocide' in Tibet

By David Eimer in Beijing, Gethin Chamberlain and agencies
Last Updated: 12:31pm GMT 16/03/2008

The Dalia Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has condemned China's "rule of terror" in Tibet and accused it of "cultural genocide".

Telegraph TV: Tibet riots

He called for an international investigation into China's crackdown on demonstrators in Tibet, which witnesses said had left more than 100 people dead.

"Some respected international organisation can find out what the situation is in Tibet and what is the cause," he told reporters in Dharmsala, the town in northern India where Tibet's government-in-exile is based.

"Whether the (Chinese) government there admits or not, there is a problem. There is an ancient cultural heritage that is facing serious danger.

"Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place."

The Dalia Lama said the international community had a "moral responsibility" to remind China to be a good host for the Olympic Games, but added "the Olympics should not be called off".

He also appealed to China to recognise his long-held position that he wanted autonomy for Tibet, and not independence, and that his campaign was non-violent.
"I have no such power," he said, when asked if he could bring an end to Tibetan protests.

Police and troops have locked down Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, two days after ugly street protests against Chinese rule.

Tanks rolled through the streets of the Tibetan capital Lhasa yesterday, as eyewitnesses put the death toll from the Chinese crackdown on demonstrators at more than 100.

One witness said monks and students were gunned down in front of the Jokhang Temple, the most sacred Buddhist shrine in the region.

"I personally saw more than a hundred Tibetans killed when the Chinese fired at the crowd. Many of those killed were young Tibetans, both boys and girls," he said.
Another witness also put the death toll at more than 100 and claimed that the Chinese authorities had imposed martial law.

The Chinese official news agency put the death toll at 10 and said they had been burned to death.

The Tibetan government in exile said at least 80 people had been killed in unrest following the protests.

The first group of tourists to leave Lhasa after Friday's bloody clampdown told how they watched police round up protestors and soldiers surround monasteries.
One American, who asked not to be identified, described standing on the roof of the Jokang Temple on Tuesday as the first protests were broken up in the square below. "The amount of enforcement people they brought immediately was amazing to me," he said shortly after arriving in Kathmandu, the capital of neighbouring Nepal. A female companion said: "Our guide was terrified, she was begging us to back off."
Later the group attempted to visit Gamdem monastery but were turned away by several truck loads of soldiers who had just arrived. Along with Sera and Depung, the monastery was still surrounded on Saturday.

"We heard from our Tibetan guide that there are more than 20 dead people," said Gepke Pals, from Holland. Her companion, France Plooij, said: "Last night [Friday], early in the evening, there were more than 100 trucks of soldiers entering the city. And this morning I saw another 40 trucks of soldiers and 36 tanks - I counted them. They came down on the Tibetan people really hard."

On the streets of Lhasa, soldiers from the Chinese army had replaced police. Gunfire could be heard around the city and plumes of smoke rose above the rooftops.
Tanks and armoured vehicles rolled through the streets, firing off tear gas in an attempt to suppress the groups of protesters who darted in and out of a warren of alleyways, burning shops, cars and Chinese flags.

The killings drew widespread international diplomatic criticism and there were demonstrations in a number of cities around the world.

Police dispersed crowds in India, Australia and China as tempers flared.

Barack Obama, the US Democratic presidential hopeful, raised the subject of this summer's Beijing Olympics as he called on the Chinese government to respect the basic human rights of the people of Tibet.

"This is the year of the Beijing Olympics. It represents an opportunity for China to show the world what it has accomplished in the last several decades," he said.
"Those accomplishments have been extraordinary and China's people have a right to be proud of them, but the events in Tibet these last few days unfortunately show a different face of China."

But China's Olympic organisers denied that the furore surrounding the crackdown in Tibet would have any impact on the Games.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the organising committee, said preparations to carry the Olympic torch up Mount Everest and across Tibet "have been proceeding very smoothly and according to schedule."

He said protesters represented only a tiny minority of global opinion and said the organisers opposed "any attempt to politicise the Olympic Games because that runs counter to the very spirit of the Olympic Games."

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, avoided overt criticism of the Chinese.

"We are very concerned about what is happening in Tibet. We have asked for more information about what is going on and we will keep this matter under review," he said.
Campaigners including exiled former political prisoners were last night holding a prayer vigil in London. Ngawang Sangdrol, a Buddhist nun who served 11 years in Chinese prisons, said: "Governments around the world should speak out."

Until now, pressure groups have stopped short of calling for athletes not to attend the Games in August, but instead have asked dignitaries to stay away.

However, Matt Whitticase, of the UK-based Free Tibet Campaign, said last night that the activists were rethinking this position because of the Chinese response to disturbances in Lhasa in recent days.

"The landscape in Tibet is clearly very different after these protests," he said.
"We will have to reassess our position on the Olympics. We will have to readdress the boycott issue. Any decision we make will be based on the action of the Chinese government, and so far they are acting with repression."

Chinese troops were out in force in Lhasa on Sunday

'Eighty killed' in Tibetan unrest

At least 80 people have been killed in unrest following protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule, the Tibetan government in exile says.

Indian-based officials said the figure was confirmed by several sources, even though China put the death toll at 10.

The Dalai Lama called for an international inquiry into China's crackdown, accusing it of a "rule of terror" and "cultural genocide".

Chinese troops were out in force in Lhasa, Tibet's main city, on Sunday.

Hong Kong Cable TV reported that about 200 military vehicles, each carrying 40 to 60 armed soldiers, had driven into the city.

Loudspeakers broadcast messages, such as: "Discern between enemies and friends, maintain order."

China tightly restricts Western journalists' access to Tibet and it is sometimes extremely difficult to verify what is going on.


The BBC has learned that troops in neighbouring Chengdu province have been recalled from leave and put on standby.

China says Tibet always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
1950: China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India

A 23-year-old Canadian student in Lhasa told AP: "The entire city is basically closed down."

The Chinese crackdown followed rioting on Friday, that erupted after a week of mainly peaceful protests.

The Chinese official news agency Xinhua says 10 people died on Friday, including business people it said were "burnt to death".

But the Tibetan government in exile later said at least 80 corpses had been counted, including those of 26 people killed on Saturday next to the Dratchi prison in Lhasa.

Other bodies were spotted near the Ramoche Buddhist temple, and near a Muslim mosque and a cathedral in Lhasa, said Tenzin Taklha, a senior aide to the Dalai Lama.

"These reports come from relatives, from our people inside and from contacts of our department of security. They have all been confirmed multiple times," he said.

Deadline to surrender

The demonstrators, who on Friday set fire to Chinese-owed shops and hurled rocks at local police, have been penned into an area of the old town by government forces.

The authorities in Tibet have urged the protesters to hand themselves in by midnight on Monday, promising leniency to those who surrender.

Meanwhile, there were reports of protests by Tibetans in other parts of China.

About 200 protesters threw petrol bombs and burned down a police station in Sichuan province, a police officer told Reuters.

There were reports that officers opened fire on the protesters.

In an interview with the BBC, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, said he feared there would be more deaths unless Beijing changed its policies towards Tibet, which it has ruled since invading in 1950.

"It has become really very, very tense. Now today and yesterday, the Tibetan side is determined. The Chinese side also equally determined. So that means, the result: killing, more suffering," he said.

"Ultimately, the Chinese government is clinging of policy, not looking at the reality. They simply feel they have gun - so they can control. Obviously they can control. But they cannot control human mind," he warned.

The unrest erupted a fortnight before China's Olympic celebrations kick off with the start of the torch relay, which is scheduled to pass through Tibet.

But the Dalai Lama emphasised that he still supported Beijing's staging of the Olympic Games this summer, saying it was an opportunity for the Chinese to show their support for the principle of freedom.

The International Olympic Committee said it hoped to see the Tibetan unrest resolved peacefully, but its president Jacques Rogge rejected any boycott, saying it "doesn't solve anything".

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday urged China to "exercise restraint" in dealing with the protests.

She spoke as pro-Tibet demonstrations were held in Nepal, New York, Australia and several European cities.

Story from BBC NEWS:

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