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China invokes Panchen Lama as Tibetan protests spread

March 17, 2008

By DPA
Mar 16, 2008

Beijing - China on Sunday issued a statement condemning rioting in Lhasa
from its state-appointed Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Panchen Lama, amid
reports that Tibetan independence protests had spread to several more
monastery towns.

'The 11th Panchen Lama condemns the Lhasa riot and says sabotage acts
are against the tenets of Buddhism', the government's official Xinhua
news agency reported.

China's 18-year-old Panchen Lama was chosen in 1995 by state-sponsored
Tibetan Buddhist leaders.

A rival Panchen Lama, chosen and recognized by supporters of the exiled
Dalai Lama, has reportedly been held under virtual house arrest in China
since he was six years old.

An estimated 3,000 Tibetan protesters in the town of Xiahe, near Labrang
monastery in China's Gansu province, on Saturday shouted statements in
support of the Dalai Lama and called for the release of the Panchen
Lama, US-based Radio Free Asia reported.

More protests were reported in Lithang, Sershul and Ngaba towns in a
traditional Tibetan area of Kham now under China's Sichuan province,
reports said.

Monks also protested at Samye monastery, south of Lhasa in the Tibet
Autonomous region, while troops with tanks and armoured personnel
carriers imposed virtual marital law in Lhasa, the broadcaster said.

The Indian-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said
paramilitary police fired tear gas and warning shots into the air to
disperse the protestors in Xiahe.

Some of the monks and lay Tibetans who joined the rally were beaten or
arrested by police, the centre said.

Chinese authorities on Saturday demanded that Tibetan rioters in Lhasa
surrender to police or face more serious punishment for the violence
that reportedly claimed dozens of lives following five days of
escalating pro-independence protests.

State media said at least 10 people died in fires in Lhasa on Saturday,
while the Tibetan government in exile, based in the Indian city of
Dharamsala, said it had unconfirmed reports of about 100 deaths in the city.

The Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's highest leader, fled to India in 1959
after an abortive uprising against the occupation of Tibet by Chinese
troops since 1951.

The current protests began on Monday to mark the 49th anniversary of the
1959 uprising.

The reincarnate Panchen Lama is often considered second in importance to
the Dalai Lama by Tibetan Buddhists.
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