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Dalai Lama Warns of Tibetan Culture's 'Extinction'

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Human Rights Violations, EXCTINTION, Tibetan people, Dalai Lama, China, tyranny )

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The Dalaia Lama today warned that Tibetan culture and identity were "nearing extinction" as he spoke on the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising against Chinese rule which led to his flight into exile.

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Tuesday March 10, 2009, 1:59 pm
FOLLOWING UP with another news item on the Dalai Lama which has more content

On 50th anniversary of failed uprising against Chinese rule, spiritual leader says martial law devastated Himalayan region

Tania Branigan in Beijing, Tuesday 10 March 2009 11.40 GMT

The Dalai Lama offers prayers during a gathering at his palace temple in Dharamsala. Photograph: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

The Dalaia Lama today warned that Tibetan culture and identity were "nearing extinction" as he spoke on the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising against Chinese rule which led to his flight into exile.

In an unusually forceful speech to thousands of supporters in India, he accused Beijing of bringing "hell on Earth" to the region at times through periods of martial law and hardline policies such as the cultural revolution.

"These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on Earth," he said, adding that the policies had caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Tensions remained high today, with Tibet and largely Tibetan areas in nearby provinces under a security lockdown.

The measures came after disturbances swept across the area last March, the most serious Tibetan unrest for decades.

The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, yesterday called for a "great wall" of stability to oppose separatism in the region.

Security forces have been heavily reinforced and many areas are closed to foreigners. Police are patrolling outside monasteries, while mobile phone and internet access have been cut off in places.

The Dalai Lama accused the authorities of a brutal crackdown in the wake of last year's unrest.

Speaking to thousands of supporters in the town of Dharamsala, where the government in exile is based, he said: "Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them. The Tibetan people are regarded like criminals, deserving to be put to death."

But he insisted any change must come peacefully, adding: "I have no doubt that the justice of [the] Tibetan cause will prevail if we continue to tread a path of truth and non-violence."

China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence and fomenting unrest in the region, but he repeated today that he seeks meaningful autonomy under Chinese rule.

He said the two sides needed to work together to find a way forward.

A meeting of exiles last November reaffirmed his "middle way", but younger people, in particular, are growing increasingly impatient with Beijing. Some believe new tactics are needed.

Thousands of young Tibetans took to the streets of Dharamsala after the Dalai Lama's speech, chanting "China Out!" and "Tibet belongs to Tibetans!"

Protests to mark the anniversary of 1959 are taking place around the world.

In an editorial, the People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist party, extolled Tibet's development over the last 50 years.

"Nobody hopes to go backwards in history, and only a few slave owners dwell on the life that once was," the paper said. "Tibet's happiness today is the happiness of the people, not that of the slave owners."

The Tibet governor, Qiangba Puncog, said the Dalaim Lama's claims about Tibetan deaths were "merely fabrication and vilification", according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Privately, some officials acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past but argue that China has improved life in the region for many and that Tibetans were not the only ones who suffered from hardline Maoist policies.

Last year, peaceful protests in Lhasa to mark the anniversary of the 1959 uprising erupted into violent anti-Chinese riots.

The authorities say 22 people died, mostly because of rioters, while Tibetan exiles allege that more than 200 Tibetans died in the crackdown, which came after unrest flared across nearby Chinese provinces.

The Associated Press today cited witnesses reporting an increased paramilitary presence in Lhasa.

"It is doubly tense today ... this morning, the security forces made a show of marching around," a young devotee at the Kumbum monastery, in Qinghai province ‑ the birthplace of the lama who founded the Dalai Lama's sect ‑ told Reuters.

"Things seem quiet here, but there are cameras throughout the monastery and many of the tourists are actually plain clothes security."
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