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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?"

Dalai Lama risks Chinese ire to back Uighurs

March 12, 2010

By Abhishek Madhukar
Reuters Wednesday, March 10, 2010

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual
leader, voiced his support on Wednesday for an ethnic minority in China's
troubled Xinjiang province, risking further worsening his fraught relations
with Beijing.

In an address marking 51 years since he fled Tibet after a failed uprising
against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama referred to Xinjiang as "East
Turkestan," the name given to it by pro-independence exiles. The region is
populated by the ethnic minority Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking largely Muslim

"Let us also remember the people of East Turkestan who have experienced
great difficulties and increased oppression," he told about 3,000 Tibetans
in Dharamsala, the northern Indian hill town where the Nobel Peace prize
winner has lived for five decades.

"I would like to express my solidarity and stand firmly with them."

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have waged a heavy-handed campaign against
what China calls violent separatist activity by Uighurs. Ethnic violence
there last year between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese led to at least 200

The Dalai Lama's comments riled Beijing, which reviles the him as a
separatist and says he foments violence. The Dalai Lama denies both charges,
saying he merely seeks genuine autonomy for the remote region of Tibet.

A commentary in the official Xinhua news agency called the speech
"resentful, yet unsurprising," saying it was full of "angry rhetoric."

"Regardless of his allegations of not separating China, the Dalai Lama's
request for 'genuine autonomy' on one quarter of the Chinese territory is
anything but acceptable for the central government," the Xinhua commentary
said, referring to Tibet.

In Dharamsala, thousands of exiled Tibetans, including maroon-robed monks,
nuns and many Westerners, marked the day with a march carrying
blue-yellow-red Tibetan flags and banners with anti-China messages.

In neighboring Nepal, police detained about a dozen Tibetan protestors when
they tried to storm a Chinese consulate office in the capital Kathmandu. The
protestors, who shouted "Free Tibet," were dragged away by riot police to
waiting vans.


Reaching out to Tibetans working for the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama
said: "I invite Tibetan officials serving in various Tibetan autonomous
areas to visit Tibetan communities living in the free world, either
officially or in a private capacity, to observe the situation for

China bans Tibetans who work for the government from visiting exile
communities, but many ordinary Tibetans make the hazardous and illegal
crossing to study Buddhism in Dharamsala.

The Dalai Lama also vowed he and members of his self-proclaimed
government-in-exile would not take any political positions if and when the
Tibet issue was resolved.

Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March 2008 gave way
to torrid violence, with rioters torching shops and turning on residents,
including Han Chinese and Hui Muslims. Tibetans see Hans as intruders
threatening their culture.

At least 19 people died in the 2008 unrest, which sparked waves of protest
across Tibetan areas ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Pro-Tibet groups abroad
say more than 200 Tibetans have died in a subsequent crackdown across the
region. Beijing has denied that and said it used minimal force.

The Dalai Lama said Beijing had put monks and nuns "in prison-like
conditions," making "monasteries function more like museums ... to
deliberately annihilate Buddhism."

But he offered to keep talking to the Chinese, despite what he sees as
"little hope" of results.

China and the Dalai Lama's envoys have held several rounds of talks since
2002 but made little progress.

(Additional reporting by Gopal Sharma in KATHMANDU and Ben Blanchard in
BEIJING; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee)
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