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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Devotion to Tibetan god-king vies with loyalty to heirs of Chairman Mao

June 29, 2009

From The Times June 26, 2009

An old Tibetan peering through spectacles as thick as magnifying lenses
spits with anger at the mention of the leader whom he blames for enslaving
him: the Dalai Lama. A young man with high cheekbones, long hair and slim
jeans bursts into a tirade against the authorities he charges have stolen
his freedom: Beijing.

When it comes to emotive issues such as independence from China or the
return of the exiled god-king, Tibetans are not necessarily of one mind.
Many have become materially better off under Chinese rule; many others miss
their spiritual leader and are distressed by the constraints imposed by a
distrustful government.

There are few reminders of the anti-Chinese riots that rocked Lhasa, the
capital, on March 14 last year when mobs of angry Tibetans raced through the
streets setting fire to shops, offices and banks, killing 18. Residents
point to the only clothes store where five shop girls, one Tibetan and four
ethnic Han Chinese, were burnt to death.

One Han Chinese doctor working in the ethnic Han section of the city said:
"It's quite safe to go into the Old Town now. There are lots of army and
police there to maintain order. But better not to go out late at night."

He has yet to venture into the heart of the old Tibetan quarter surrounding
the Jokhang Temple. Fewer than a dozen monks were to be seen in the temple
when The Times was given permission for a rare visit last week - foreign
journalists are normally barred from the region. A day after the group of
reporters left, two buses containing about fifty lamas were seen returning
to the temple, apparently having been kept away from the outsiders.

On the street that circles the temple was an endless stream of pilgrims.
Just as conspicuous along the route and on alleys leading to the temple were
the armed police - dressed in yellow and navy-blue tracksuits - who
sheltered under plastic tents and watched the crowds. "I'm a student," one
said when asked if he was a member of the People's Armed Police.

As dusk fell a contingent of track-suited "students" formed ranks and
marched away down the street as the next shift arrived. The day after we
left they were back in their olive-green uniforms. The local government is
not yet sufficiently relaxed to remove its forces from the city. Gongbao
Zhaxi, the secretary-general of the Tibetan Communist Party, said there had
been more than 100 incidents of unrest since the first riot in 1987. "We
know these incidents will happen again."

Over the past year the authorities have slashed the number of monks in the
three main monasteries around Lhasa. At Drepung - whose monks staged the
first demonstration last year - about 600 have been sent back to their
provinces and only about 450 from Tibet remain in what was once the world's
largest monastery.

One Lhasa monk, speaking anonymously, told The Times: "We have to attend
patriotic education classes one day a week and pledge our love for the
motherland and criticise the Dalai Lama. It's very painful but I want to
stay as a monk. It's my vocation." Local officials insist that the violence
is not linked to Beijing's policies in the region but to a plot by the Dalai
Lama to separate Tibet from the rest of China. Mr Gongbao said: "There is no
such thing as an ethnic problem in Tibet. Han and Tibetans live in unity and
harmony and peace."

However, the arrival of tens of thousands of ethnic Han from other parts of
China to set up businesses and find jobs has created resentment among
Tibetans. One man, 26, says that he did not necessarily want independence,
just a more responsive government. "They are always watching us Tibetans.
Since the March 14 incident there are so many new restrictions. You can't
say what you think."

Living standards have soared in Tibet in the past two decades, and many are
appreciative of the investment from Beijing. Benzho, 68, is the poorest man
in one of the hundreds of new villages built to improve the lot of local
nomads His  50,000-yuan (£4,500) subsidy paid for his three-room house.
Portraits of Chairman Mao take pride of place on the wall. "They are like my
parents, and you love your parents."
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