The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, called on his supporters to show restraint and not be provoked by an alleged Chinese military crackdown in the region during the Tibetan New Year.
China has recently built up forces in Tibet and people face “torture and detention” if they protest, the Buddhist monk said in a statement to mark the start of the holiday today.
“The strike-hard campaign has been re-launched in Tibet and there is a heavy presence of armed security and military forces in most of the cities,” said the Dalai Lama.
Almost six decades after China’s army completed its takeover of Tibet, tension is rising around the 50th anniversary, on March 10, of an anti-Chinese uprising in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. The revolt triggered an army crackdown and prompted the Dalai Lama to flee into exile in India.
China has closed Tibet to foreign tourists before next month’s anniversary, Agence France-Presse reported, citing tour agencies and other industry representatives.
The government in Beijing imposed a three-month ban on foreign tourists last year as security forces cracked down on the biggest anti-Chinese protests in 20 years.
The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Dharamshala, northern India, says more than 120 Tibetans were killed and 1,000 disappeared in that crackdown. China said 18 civilians and one police officer died.
Tibetans are canceling traditional New Year festivities to mourn their rule by China, according to the Tibetan government- in-exile, based in Dharamshala.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters in Beijing this week that “at present, the situation in Tibet is stable and social order is good.” Referring to the exiled government, he said, “the Dalai clique is creating rumors to wreck stability in Tibet, but this effort is doomed.”
The Dalai Lama said “provocative orders have been passed for special celebrations of the Tibetan New Year,” according to the statement on the government-in-exile’s Web site.
“The intention and aim behind them are to subject the Tibetan people to such a level of cruelty and harassment that they will not be able to tolerate and thus be forced to remonstrate,” he said. “When this happens the authorities can then indulge in an unprecedented and unimaginable forceful crackdown.”
China deployed troops in Tibet in 1950 and annexed the Himalayan region a year later. The Dalai Lama accuses the government in Beijing of committing “cultural genocide” there and says mass migration of ethnic Han Chinese has made Tibetans a minority in their own land.
China says it peacefully liberated Tibet and saved its people from feudal serfdom.