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Dalai Lama's birthplace blocked

March 20, 2008

Michael Bristow
BBC News, Xining, Qinghai Province
Tuesday, 18 March 2008


The man the Chinese government claims has masterminded the current
unrest in Tibet was born in a poor village deep in the mountains of
Qinghai Province.

Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the 14th Dalai Lama, came from an
ordinary Tibetan family that grew barley, buckwheat and potatoes in the
village of Taktser.

That village, which lies along a pot-holed road, has now been blocked
off by Chinese police following the wave of protests across Tibetan areas.

When the BBC tried to visit, we were turned back by police who had set
up a temporary roadblock just a few miles outside the village.

China presumably fears Taktser, called Hongya in Chinese, could become
the focus of fresh protests against Beijing's rule in Tibet.

No signposts

The Dalai Lama's home village, which is a few hours drive outside the
provincial capital Xining, is not an easy place to find.


The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959

There are no signs that mark this village, in Ping'an County, as the
birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader. It is obviously not a
place China wants tourists to visit.

But they do visit, according to local people interviewed by the BBC.

"The village has three lama's (Buddhist monks) and gets lots of
tourists. They come in buses," said one man as he worked in a field.

Another local, whose mother lives in Taktser, said there are about 70 to
80 families living there; a mix of Han Chinese people and Tibetans.

Unfortunately, the BBC was not allowed to see the village, in which the
Dalai Lama's former home is still standing, according to a Tibetan who
visited recently.

"What are you doing here," a police officer asked us, before ordering us
to turn around.

Security around Xining is tight following the outbreak of protests,
which began in Lhasa on 10 March and have since spread to other Tibetan
areas.

There were police checkpoints in the city itself on Tuesday.

A few miles from Taktser, security officers were also watching a Tibetan
monastery situated on a hill that overlooks a still-frozen river.

Dangerous

Born in 1935 and named Lhamo Thondrup, the Dalai Lama did not live in
Taktser for long.

A farmer who lives near Taktser, where Dalai Lama was born
Qinghai is a poor province

Once identified as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, he was
taken to Lhasa, where he was declared the new Dalai Lama.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made it
clear why China considers this monk a dangerous man.

"There is ample fact and plenty of evidence proving [the protests were]
organised, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique,"
he said.

China believes the Dalai Lama wants nothing less than complete
independence for Tibet

These are charges flatly denied by the Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet
following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

He says he just wants genuine autonomy for Tibetans.

The area around Taktser, surrounded by bare, brown hills, seems a long
way from the protests that have convulsed Tibetan areas over the last week.

On Tuesday, poor farmers, who still use animals to till the fields, were
working as usual. Others could be seen chatting or playing cards.

But the Dalai Lama has travelled the world since fleeing Tibet,
promoting the idea that Tibetans deserve greater autonomy from Beijing.

For many, he has come to symbolise the Tibetans' struggle for more
freedom. While that is the case, places like Taktser will remain sensitive.
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