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Young Tibetans call for civil unrest in split from Dalai Lama

November 17, 2008

Militant young Tibetans are calling for a campaign of civil unrest in
a radical break from the Dalai Lama.
By Amrit Dhillon in Delhi
The Telegraph (UK)
November 16, 2008

A new generation of activists believes the time has come to stop
hoping that international pressure will persuade China to relent.

Nearly 50 years after he fled across the Himalayas to create his
government-in-exile in India, the Tibetan leader is under intense
pressure to embark on a more confrontational path.

Exiled Tibetans from around the world are gathering in Dharmsala for
a six-day meeting, called by the spiritual leader of Tibetan
Buddhists to discuss the future of the movement.

The Dalai Lama himself now admits that he has nothing to show after
decades of struggle.

Tenzin Choeying, Director, Students for a Free Tibet, said: "There is
terrible frustration inside Tibet. We need a mass campaign of civil
disobedience there. We need to make it costly and embarrassing for
China to continue its occupation."

The young generation of activists believe a tougher line toward
Beijing is the best way of achieving autonomy and protecting Tibetan
culture, language and religion from the influx of ethnic Han Chinese.

For 20 years the movement has been guided by the Dalai Lama's "middle
way" and his insistence on conciliation with China.

But such talk has produced only criticism from Beijing, which has
labelled the Dalai Lama a "splittist".

China claims the Dalai Lama is not a representative of the Tibetan
people, and believes Tibet has prospered far more under Chinese rule
than it would have on its own.

Chhime Chhoekyapa, an official in the Dalai Lama's office, said: "We
are at a crossroads. It's a critical moment in the Tibetan movement.
We have to work out a new approach, come up with new ideas and decide
what is best for the Tibetan people."

Last month the Dalai Lama admitted to reporters in Japan that,
following the collapse of talks, he had lost faith in the will of
Chinese officials to resolve the political status of Tibet.

"Suppression is increasing and I cannot pretend that everything is
OK," he told reporters in Tokyo. "As far as I'm concerned I have
given up,'' he added.

Bloody anti-government riots in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, were
brutally repressed by the Chinese authorities in March.

That was followed by the Beijing Olympics, which many Tibetan
activists had hoped would offer the best platform in years for
peaceful demonstrators. Instead, protests in Europe during the
Olympic torch run were overshadowed by the Sichuan earthquake. The
failure of the protests helped reinforce divisions between Tibetan
exiles who back the Dalai Lama's pacifism and the younger generation,
who are increasingly desperate for action.

Further fuelling the call for a change of tactics is the fact that
the Dalai Lama is 73, has been admitted to hospital twice since
August – once for the removal of a gallstone – and has cut back on
travel. Young activists are angry that he has failed to extract a
single concession from China.

"The Chinese are spinning things out, waiting for His Holiness to
die," said Sherab Tenzing, a Tibetan activist. "They don't think he
has anything to give in return for cutting a deal with him."

Tsewang Rigzin, president of the radical Tibetan Youth Congress,
believes it is time for a change in tactics. "We have nothing to
lose," he said. "We are fighting for the dignity and freedom of the
Tibetan people and we have truth and history on our side." The Dalai
Lama, along with thousands of other refugees, fled Tibet in 1959
following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

Mr Rigzin claimed that Beijing had augmented security in Tibet in
recent days for fear that Tibetans might be planning protests to
coincide with the Dharamsala conference.

The Tibetan leader will not attend the conference himself, for fear
of overawing the delegates. "He wants a frank discussion of every
possible idea and option, and doesn't want to influence or inhibit
the debate," said Karma Chopel, speaker of the Tibetan parliament in exile.
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