Dalai Lama Answers Chinese Critics on Tibet

Chinese authorities blame the Dalai Lama for recent protests seeking independence for Tibet. But the Dalai Lama said Monday that he does not seek independence for Tibet — only true autonomy.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

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China is defending its handling of last week's violent protests in Tibet. Despite eyewitness accounts of gunfire, China says security forces never fired a shot. With Tibet under tight security, the conflict is turning into a war or words between China's government and the Tibetan government in exile.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN: Champa Phuntsok is an ethnic Tibetan and the Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet. He told reporters today that Chinese security forces had neither carried nor used any lethal weapons. He said that 13 civilians had been killed and 61 paramilitary police injured in Friday's violence. He reiterated a warning that rioters who didn't surrender to police by midnight on Monday faced harsh punishment. Phuntsok said that what really made him angry was that some Western critics described the violent riots as peaceful protests, and Beijing's restoring law and order as suppression.

Governor CHAMPA PHUNTSOK (Tibet): (Through translator) This time, a tiny handful of lawless elements engage in extreme acts with the goal of generating even more publicity to wreck the stability during this crucial period of the Olympic Games.

KUHN: For the first time today, peaceful protests spread to China's capital. Around 40 students staged a candlelight vigil tonight at the Central University for Nationalities where the Chinese government grooms Tibetans and other minority students for leadership roles. Meanwhile, China's foreign ministry complained today that Tibetan independence activists had stormed Chinese embassies and consulates in 16 countries, smashing windows and cars and threatening Chinese diplomats. Spokesman Liu Jianchao restated Beijing's claim that the Dalai Lama was behind the violence in Tibet.

Mr. LIU JIANCHAO (Spokesman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, People's Republic of China): (Speaking in foreign language)

KUHN: We have plenty of evidence, he said, to show that the Dalai cleet(ph) was involved in, planned, and organized these violent incidents. If necessary in future, we may make this evidence public.

At a press conference in Dharamsala, India yesterday, the Dalai Lama encouraged reporters to investigate for themselves whether or not he was behind the protests. But he also expressed frustration with the divisions between protestors demanding independence and his own calls simply for autonomy.

Mr. TENZIN GYATSO (Dalai Lama): So therefore, some Tibetans and also some - there are supporters - some Europeans, some Indians - very critical about our approach because they are not seeking independence.

KUHN: The Dalai Lama insisted that his views were known to almost all.

Mr. GYATSO: And you know, we are not seeking separation that everybody knows, except Beijing do not know that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GYATSO: Otherwise, the rest of the world knows that.

KUHN: But Elliot Sperling, a Tibet expert at Indiana University in Bloomington, says that Beijing knows full well that the Dalai Lama does not advocate independence - they simply pretend not to believe him.

Professor ELLIOT SPERLING (Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington): They found the best spokesperson against Tibetan independence, and that was the Dalai Lama.

KUHN: Since Friday's riots, foreign governments have amplified their calls for dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama. Sperling says that Beijing has no intention of cutting any deals with the 72-year-old cleric. They're just waiting for him to die so that they can name a new Dalai Lama whom they can control.

Prof. SPERLING: What the thinking has been is, you know, wait until he dies. But in the interim, constantly get him to say that Tibet should not be independent.

KUHN: And the more he says Tibet should not be independent, the more the pro-independence activists are marginalized and Beijing's claim of legitimate rule over Tibet is bolstered.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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Beijing's Deadline Passes for Tibet Protesters

Tibetan protesters in exile hold a candlelight vigil as part of an anti-China demonstration.

Tibetan protesters in exile hold a candlelight vigil as part of an anti-China demonstration at the Swayambhu Nath temple in Kathmandu. Around 200 Tibetan exiles held a vigil in Nepal's capital to show support for protesters in Chinese-controlled Tibet. At least 59 Tibetan exiles shouting "Free Tibet" were detained in the Nepalese capital after police broke up two protests outside a U.N. complex, using sticks and tear gas. Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images

A midnight deadline for protesters in Tibet to turn themselves over to Chinese authorities passed on Monday as residents of the capital, Lhasa, braced for house-to-house searches by police following a violent crackdown that left 16 people dead, according to official figures.

Earlier Monday, the Beijing-appointed governor of Tibet promised leniency to demonstrators who voluntarily surrender and harsh consequences for those who don't.

"If these people turn themselves in, they will be treated with leniency within the framework of the law," said Champa Phuntsok, the China-appointed governor of Tibet. Otherwise "we will deal with them harshly," he added.

China also lashed out at Tibetan supporters of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader-in-exile, for allegedly attacking its embassies around the world. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters that China would not flinch in the face of the demonstrations.

"I'd like to reiterate that the Chinese government will resolutely safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Liu said in the central government's first comment on the crisis.

"Tibetan independence forces used violent acts to break through police cordons in foreign countries and break into Chinese embassies and consulates," Liu said, calling on international governments to increase security of its missions.

The protesters launched demonstrations last week to press their demand for independence for the territory, which was forcibly annexed by China in 1951. They were the fiercest anti-China protests in nearly two decades.

The Chinese government has acknowledged that 16 people have been killed in the Lhasa demonstrations and crackdown. Some Tibetan exile groups claim 80 deaths. Sympathy protests have spread to three provinces bordering Tibet. Chinese troops have fanned out to break them up.

Some Tibetan protest leaders on Monday expressed disappointment that the Dalai Lama, has taken a conciliatory approach to Beijing in the wake of days of anti-China riots.

In Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama set up a government-in-exile when he and thousands of followers fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising, Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, said "the middle way has been in existence for 20 years and nothing has come out of it."

Samdhong Rimpoche, the exiled government's prime minister, said the government felt helpless as more reports of deaths came in from Tibet, along with unconfirmed reports that Chinese hospitals were turning away injured Tibetans.

By night, hundreds of Tibetans in Dharamsala have been holding candlelight rallies in streets and monasteries.

From NPR and wire reports.

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