Dalai Lama fears village massacres as Chinese troops retaliate for protests

From The Guardian – The Dalai Lama said yesterday that he feared villagers in remote parts of Tibet were “facing death” from Chinese troops intent on seeking retribution for last week’s protests, but emphasised that he was prepared to meet Chinese leaders to resolve the crisis.

Speaking to journalists in the office of his long yellow bungalow in the north Indian town of Dharamsala, the Buddhist religious leader warned that columns of army trucks were being sent across the Tibetan plateau, with troops deployed in many villages as unrest flared in far-flung corners of the country.

“There are many remote places cut off from the world where the only sign is Chinese troop movement. I am really worried that a lot of casualties may happen. Then [there are] no medical facilities. So I am appealing to the international community, please think about these helpless unarmed innocent people who simply love Tibetan culture and are not willing to accept others’ bullying. These are now facing death.”

There is no doubt the fallout from last Friday’s deadly riots has been bloody. The Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile puts the number of dead at “about 100”. China says 16 people were killed.

The reincarnation of the “compassionate Buddha” denied allegations by the Communist party in Beijing that he had masterminded the protests from his home in northern India, where he has lived since he was forced to flee during a failed uprising in 1959.

The demonstrations, he said, had been spontaneous and “frustration had burst out” in Tibet. “People know they will suffer more. More Chinese soldiers, more arrest, more torture. In spite of that people are expressing loudly.”

The Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, appeared to hold out an olive branch earlier this week with the offer of face-to-face talks – but only after the Dalai Lama gives up what is viewed in China as a campaign for Tibetan independence.

The Dalai Lama said that he had long ago accepted Chinese control over Tibet in exchange for guarantees of genuine internal autonomy.

“The whole world knows the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence, 100 times, 1,000 times I have repeated this. It is my mantra – we are not seeking independence.”

He added that he was “always ready to meet Chinese leaders, particularly Hu Jintao”- a reference to China’s president, who in 1989 oversaw a bloody crackdown in Lhasa as regional Communist party secretary.

Unless there was “a real concrete development” in the Tibetan situation, the Dalai Lama said he was unlikely to visit Beijing for peace talks, which he said would be likely to raise unrealistic expectations of a breakthrough.

Sitting in maroon robes, the Dalai Lama said he would adopt a wait-and-see policy. “I have to think about that very carefully. We will see after this crisis. In the next few weeks and months I will see if there is something more positive.”

The spiritual leader also warned younger radicals who consider autonomy a sell-out of Tibetan independence to “think through the consequences”. “Today we are almost like a nation dying. At this moment, the importance is survival and a practical solution is necessary,” he said.

The propaganda war over the roof of the world has seen Beijing’s rhetoric take on a harder edge in recent days – Tibet’s communist party chief described the Dalai Lama as “a wolf in a monk’s robe, a monster with a human face but the heart of a beast”.

The Dalai Lama said such attacks were part of “government propaganda” which had helped to the fuel the “hatred towards Tibet, towards me”.

“It is a pity. This Chinese official statement is meant for Chinese public. Do you think the outside world believes that? Really I feel sad. The Chinese public’s lack of information [allows] the government to manipulate their ignorance.”

The protests, which come months before the Beijing Olympics, have seen China become edgier about Tibet – aware of the growing success of the Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel peace prize, in gaining international support.

The Dalai Lama singled out a number of world leaders – among them the Pope, George Bush, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel – who he said had been “sympathetic and supportive”, risking Chinese ire.

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