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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibetans forced to oppose Dalai Lama's return - group

January 11, 2008

By Benjamin Kang Lim

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have been forcing Tibetans to
sign a petition opposing the Dalai Lama's return, a London-based group
said, in apparent retaliation for the award of a high U.S. honour to
Tibet's spiritual leader.

President George W. Bush gave the exiled god-king the Congressional Gold
Medal in Washington in October, infuriating Beijing. It came on the
heels of the Dalai Lama's reception by German Chancellor Angela Merkel
in September.

The Dalai Lama, 72, has lived in exile in India since fleeing his
predominantly Buddhist homeland in 1959 after a failed uprising against
Communist rule. Closed-door talks between Beijing and his envoys have
made little progress.

"The Chinese authorities are really stepping up their anti-Dalai Lama
rhetoric and propaganda," Anne Holmes, acting director of the Free Tibet
Campaign, said in an e-mail on Sunday.

During a public meeting in December in Lithang in the Kham area of Gansu
province, which is populated largely by Tibetans, residents were asked
to raise their hands if they opposed the Dalai Lama's return. No one
obliged, the campaign group said.

Residents were then asked to raise their hands if they did not have
weapons at home. As it is illegal to possess firearms, everyone raised
their hand. A photo was then taken and sent to state media, claiming
residents were opposed to the Dalai Lama's return, the Free Tibet
Campaign said.

Also in December, secretaries and accountants in townships in Gansu were
invited on a nationwide tour paid for by the government, the group said.

FORCED TO SIGN

Before setting out, they were called to a meeting in Lanzhou, capital of
the northwestern province, and forced to sign a petition on behalf of
the people they represent opposing the Dalai Lama's return, the Free
Tibet Campaign said. The meeting was apparently broadcast on local
television.

An old man from Amchok town, Hezui city, refused to sign and was taken
away and beaten, Holmes said. She said the beating had led a group of
young Tibetans to attack township secretaries and accountants while they
were eating at a restaurant in Gyelmogon.

Several secretaries were seriously injured and taken to hospital in
Ganan city, Holmes said, quoting a monk who had witnessed the attack and
spoken to the injured.

Matt Whitticase, spokesman for the group, said Tibetans in Gansu had
been forced to celebrate the New Year by slaughtering pigs, contravening
their earlier decision not to butcher hogs so as to pray for long life
for the Dalai Lama who was born in the Year of the Pig.

Many in Tibet still pledge loyalty to the Dalai Lama despite Beijing's
condemnation of him as a separatist. While he advocates a "middle way"
approach that advocates autonomy for Tibet within China, Beijing
officials do not trust him.

Several Tibetans were arrested last year for burning furs after the
Nobel Peace Prize laureate called on Tibetans not to wear the furs and
skins of endangered animals.

Qin Yizhi, Communist Party boss in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, has urged
residents to "make new, greater contributions in opposing splittism,
maintaining stability and promoting lasting peace", the regional
government's official Web site said.

China regularly defends its rule in the Himalayan region, saying the
Communists ended centuries of serfdom and brought prosperity to the
underdeveloped region.

In December China dismissed accusations that religious repression was
increasing in Tibet, and accused the Dalai Lama of wanting to
reintroduce serfdom.
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