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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?"

Tibet's language and customs are fading away, warns the Dalai Lama

March 12, 2008

L', Mauritius
11 March 2008

Tibet's language, customs and traditions are fading away and Tibetans
live in fear as they become an insignificant minority in their
Himalayan homeland, the Dalai Lama said in a speech yesterday.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, also urged the
international community to call on China to respect freedom of
expression during the Beijing Olympics. Yesterday marked the 49th
anniversary of an uprising crushed by the Chinese People's Liberation
Army, driving the Dalai Lama, now 72, into exile in India.

"The language, customs and traditions of Tibet ... are gradually
fading away," the Dalai Lama said in the speech from Dharamsala, the
north Indian hill station where he lives. Tibetans "have had to live
in a state of constant fear, intimidation and suspicion under Chinese
repression", he will say.

"Repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and
gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the
politicisation of religious issues."

As a result of China's policy of population transfer, the non-Tibetan
population has increased many times, reducing Tibetans to an
"insignificant minority in their own country ... I urge the Chinese
government to bring an immediate halt to such policies", the Dalai
Lama said.

The atheist Communist Party has competed against the Dalai Lama for
the loyalty of his people but the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner
remains the single most important figure in Tibetan life.

China has defended itself saying it ended centuries of serfdom and has
poured billions of dollars to develop Tibet and raise the living
standards of the impoverished, predominantly Buddhist region.

Turning to the Olympics, the Dalai Lama said he has supported Beijing
hosting the Games from the very beginning, dismissing an accusation by
China's top official in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, that he was trying to
"sabotage and cause trouble". The Dalai Lama urged the international
community to urge China to prove itself a good host by respecting
freedom of expression during the Games. "The world should ... explore
ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous
positive change inside China after the Olympics have come to an end,"
he said.

The Dalai Lama also welcomed China's emergence as a powerful country
thanks to its economic progress, but he will prod China to improve
observance of the rule of law, transparency, the right to information
and freedom of speech.
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