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Dalai Lama offers to resign, Tibet exiles say 19 more dead in China

March 19, 2008

DHARAMSHALA, India March 18, 2008 (AFP) — The Dalai Lama said Tuesday he
would resign as leader of Tibet's exiles if unrest in his Himalayan
homeland worsened, as aides said a Chinese crackdown had claimed 19 more

The Buddhist leader, speaking in the northern Indian town where his
exiled government is based, stressed he was opposed to the violence that
erupted in Tibet last week, which saw Chinese shops and banks torched
and smashed.

The Nobel Peace laureate, 72, said Tibetans and Chinese needed to live
"side by side," urged his countrymen not to resort to violence and
reiterated he was not trying to wrest the remote region from Beijing's

"We must build good relations with the Chinese," the Tibetan spiritual
leader told reporters in Dharamshala.

"We should not develop anti-Chinese feelings. We must live together side
by side. In Tibet, Han Chinese and Tibetans can live happily."

Chinese authorities have responded to the unrest with a virtually total
lockdown of Tibet and other areas of China with large Tibetan populations.

Beijing has said 13 "innocent civilians" were killed by Tibetan "mobs,"
but Tibetan exiles said nearly 100 Tibetans were confirmed dead,
including, they said, 19 shot by Chinese police in the area of Machu in
Gansu province Tuesday.

"There was a protest in Machu this morning, and police fired on them,"
said Thubten Samphel, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama's administration.

In all, he said, "80 (Tibetan) people have been confirmed killed in
Lhasa (the Tibetan capital) in the past several days and 19 killed today."

China has blocked reporters from entering areas where there are sizeable
Tibetan populations, making it impossible to verify diverging accounts.

The incidents have trained international attention on China's human
rights record before Beijing hosts the August Olympics. Chinese Premier
Wen Jiabao renewed charges Tuesday that protesters were trying to
undermine the Games.

Wen used an annual news conference broadcast around the world to blame
the Dalai Lama for the violence, saying the spiritual leader was
"hypocritical" and that Beijing had proof he had orchestrated the unrest.

"We have plenty of evidence that proves that these incidents were
organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique,"
Wen said.

But the Dalai Lama denied the charges, and spurned calls by some Tibetan
exiles for an international boycott of the Olympics.

"The Olympic games do not take place in Lhasa -- the Olympic Games take
place in Beijing. It is illogical to blame millions of Chinese," he said.

At the same time, the he said he opposed using violence against Tibet's
Chinese rulers, adding that he would step down as leader of the
government-in-exile if the bloodshed deepened.

"Violence is almost suicide. Even if 1,000 Tibetans sacrifice their
lives, it will not help," he said.

"If things are getting out of control ... resignation is the only
option," the 72-year-old said, acknowledging his "middle way" policy of
seeking autonomy for Tibet had not yielded results and was facing tough
criticism from younger and more radical Tibetans in exile.

The Chinese crackdown has brought expressions of concern from the
international community.

While many nations have called on China to use restraint in dealing with
the protesters, none have so far said they would boycott the Olympics.

But amid last-minute presidential election campaigning in Taiwan,
however, frontrunner Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Kuomintang said he
would consider boycotting the Olympics.

Taiwan split with China in 1949 and people there have taken an intense
interest in the events in Tibet amid Beijing's long-standing ambitions
to bring the island back into its political fold -- by force if necessary.

In Nepal at least 58 Tibetan exiles, including two dozen monks and nuns,
were still being held on Tuesday after being arrested trying to protest
outside a UN compound in the capital Kathmandu.

Police dragged them into vans as they shouted "Free Tibet" and "UN help
us". Before being taken away the group had submitted a letter to the UN
calling for it to put pressure on Beijing to end the crackdown. Police
said they would be released later in the day.

Communist forces were sent into Tibet in 1950 to "liberate" the region.
The Dalai Lama fled to exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against
Chinese rule.

Last week's riots targeted Chinese-owned banks, homes and shops,
hundreds of which were set ablaze.

Tourists arriving on Tuesday in Kathmandu from Lhasa said rampaging
Tibetan youths stoned and beat Chinese people and torched stores, but
that the situation there was now calm following a major Chinese security

"It was an explosion of anger," Canadian John Kenwood told AFP.

"Shops were all burnt out -- all the merchandise was on the street in a
bonfire. Many buildings were gutted," said Serge Lachapelle, another
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