The Dalai Lama condemned a “rule of terror” in his native Tibet on Sunday as Chinese forces blanketed the region’s capital in security and pro-independence protests spread elsewhere in China.
A fresh protest in southwest China‘s Sichuan province reportedly left at least seven people dead in a dangerous escalation of the uprising by Tibetans against China‘s rule of the vast Himalayan region.
The violence, previously confined mainly to the Tibetan capital Lhasa, has left at least 80 people dead, according to Tibet‘s government-in-exile, although the official death toll in China‘s state-run media remained at 10.
The unrest is a huge crisis for China as it tries to present a peaceful image ahead of the Beijing Olympics, but it nevertheless vowed on Sunday to wage a “people’s war” against the influence of the exiled Dalai Lama.
Speaking from his base in Dharamsala, India, the revered Buddhist spiritual leader launched a scathing criticism of China‘s 57-year rule of Tibet and called for an international probe into the unrest.
“Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some cultural genocide is taking place,” the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner told reporters.
“Please investigate, if possible… some international organisation can try firstly to inquire about the situation in Tibet.”
Tibetan officials rejected the Dalai Lama’s comments, Chinese state media reported late Sunday.
“‘The rule of terror in Tibet’, as Dalai claimed, was downright nonsense,” said an official identified only as Legqoi, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the Tibetan Regional People’s Congress, according to the Xinhua news agency.
This followed two consecutive days of protest at the Labrang monastery in northwest China‘s Gansu province, which like Sichuan has a large ethnic Tibetan population.
Meanwhile, foreigners in Lhasa reported a massive security presence still in place, as Hong Kong television footage showed heavily armed security forces patrolling the city.
Despite official Chinese claims of calm in Lhasa, foreigners who flew out of the city reported hearing repeated gunfire on Saturday.
“I heard muffled gunshot fire. Flint said security forces poured into Lhasa on Saturday but that there was still “chaos” on the streets.
The worst reported violence occurred on Friday, when Tibetans rampaged through the regional capital, destroying Chinese businesses and torching police cars.
Despite being under intense international pressure to show restraint, China‘s communist government indicated it was in no mood to compromise.
“We must wage a people’s war to beat splittism and expose and condemn the malicious acts of these hostile forces and expose the hideous face of the Dalai Lama group to the light of day,” the Tibetan Daily said.
China has been regularly blacking out the domestic feed of CNN whenever it runs a story about the Tibet unrest.
On Sunday, access to YouTube in China was also denied after footage of the protests in Tibet appeared on the video posting site.
Tibetan rights groups said the protests — which marked the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising — were an outpouring of frustration at decades of brutal Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his peaceful resistance to Chinese rule and insists he does not want independence for Tibet, rather greater cultural autonomy and an end to repression.
The events in Tibet have led to protests in other parts of the world, with Tibetan communities in Australia, Japan and India staging protests.
In a newspaper interview, International Olympic Committee vice-president Thomas Bach said a number of top athletes were considering boycotting the games in China over the bloody crackdown on protesters in Tibet.
“Several sports stars are feeling ill at ease when they think about the Olympic Games. Some are even considering cancelling,” Bach, a German, told Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The Dalai Lama said the Games should go on, but also said China needed to be “reminded to be a good host.”
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