Dalai Lama: Cultural genocide taking place in Tibet

Spiritual leader: "Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some cultural genocide is taking place."

Dalai points finger 224  (photo credit: AP)
Dalai points finger 224
(photo credit: AP)
The Dalai Lama said Sunday that Tibet faces "cultural genocide," as armed police and soldiers patrolled Lhasa enforcing a clampdown following violent protests that drew negative publicity for China ahead of the Beijing Olympics. "Whether the (Chinese) government there admits or not, there is a problem," the Dalai Lama said. "Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some cultural genocide is taking place." He told reporters in Dharmsala, the north Indian hill town where Tibet's self-declared government-in-exile is based, that an international body should investigate the crackdown. The crackdown came after five days of protests in Lhasa escalated into violence Friday, with Buddhist monks and others torching police cars and shops in the fiercest challenge to Beijing's rule over the region in nearly two decades. Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile, said multiple sources inside Tibet had counted at least 80 corpses since the violence broke out Friday. He did not know how many of the bodies were protesters. At least another 72 people had been injured, he said. The official Xinhua News Agency has said at least 10 civilians were burned to death Friday. The figures could not be independently verified because China restricts foreign media access to Tibet. Hong Kong Cable TV reported that about 200 military vehicles, carrying dozens of armed soldiers in each, drove into Lhasa on Sunday. Footage showed streets in Lhasa were mostly emptied, with armored and military vehicles patrolling and soldiers searching buildings. Loudspeakers on the streets repeatedly broadcast slogans urging residents to "discern between enemies and friends, maintain order." Others also said residents had been ordered to stay off the streets. "It is fairly quiet this morning. The police are patrolling the streets. The local people have been persuaded not to go out," said a man at the Lhasa city government offices. A Lhasa resident who refused to give her name said "the police told us not to leave our homes." The violence Friday erupted just two weeks before China's Olympic celebrations kick off with the start of the torch relay, which will pass through Tibet. But even as Chinese forces appeared to reassert control in Lhasa, protests appeared in neighboring Gansu province. Witnesses said Sunday that a curfew was imposed in Xiahe city a day after police fired tear gas on more than 1,000 protesters, including Buddhist monks and ordinary citizens, who had marched from the historic Labrang monastery. Protests also took place in the nearby town of Taktsang, other witnesses said. Gansu provincial Governor Xu Shousheng called the protests "a planned and organized destructive activity" and blamed the "outside Dalai group" for them. China's communist government is hoping Beijing's hosting of the Aug. 8-24 Olympics will boost its popularity at home as well as its image abroad. But the event has already attracted the scrutiny of China's human rights record and its pollution problems. International criticism of the crackdown in Tibet so far has been mild, without any threats of an Olympic boycott or other sanctions. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on China "to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests." Rice said she was "concerned by reports of a sharply increased police and military presence in and around Lhasa." Her statement urged China to release those jailed for protesting. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said he opposed an Olympic boycott over Tibet. "We believe that the boycott doesn't solve anything," Rogge told reporters on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. "On the contrary, it is penalizing innocent athletes and it is stopping the organization from something that definitely is worthwhile organizing." The ruling Communist Party body in Tibet said efforts had to be made "to expose and criticize the evil acts done by the hostile forces and expose the ugly feature of the Dalai clique." In a statement on the Tibet Daily Web site, the group urged swift action against Tibet's independence movement. It said the government should "unite all forces that can be united to wage a people's war against anti-splittism and to maintain stability." Major-General Feng Zhengjie of the People's Liberation Army told reporters in Beijing outside the National People's Congress that the government needs to pay "high attention" to this sort of violent action. "I hope and believe that the local government will handle this matter. It reminds all of us we need to pay attention to internal and external anti-China forces," he said. The unrest in Tibet began last Monday on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule of the region. Tibet was effectively independent for decades before communist troops entered in 1950. The protests by Buddhist monks spiraled to include cries for Tibet's independence and turned violent when police intervened. Pent-up grievances against Chinese rule came to the fore, as Tibetans directed their anger against Chinese and their shops, hotels and other businesses. ___ On the Net: International Campaign for Tibet: www.savetibet.org Chinese official news agency: www.xinhuanet.com Tibet Daily: www.tibetdaily.com