Al Jazeera – 2009-03-09 22:13:34
Tibetans Rally to Mark Anniversary
(March 10, 2009) — Hundreds of Tibetans and their supporters rallied in front of the White House on Monday with cries of “Free Tibet!” and anti-China slogans. In the Tibetan regions in China, the authorities were enforcing a lockdown to prevent a repeat of rioting that took place a year ago.
For the past few weeks, Chinese security forces have set up checkpoints at entryways into the region, implemented a ban on many tourist areas and restricted access for journalists.
In Washington DC, hundreds of exiles holding Tibetan and US flags bowed their heads in Lafayette park facing the White House at 16:00 GMT on Monday – midnight in Tibet on March 10, the day 50 years ago that the Dalai Lama fled – before marching to the Chinese embassy. Similar rallies were expected around the world on Tuesday, including in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala where the Dalai Lama and his government live in exile.
Also on Tuesday, the US congress was to vote on a non-binding resolution that would call on China to “cease its repression of the Tibetan people, and to lift immediately the harsh policies imposed on Tibetans.” The bill, authored by Rush Holt, a Democrat, also urges China to respond to initiatives of the Dalai Lama to find a lasting solution on Tibet.
China brands the Dalai Lama a “splittist” bent on separating Tibet from China, but the Tibetan spiritual leader says he only wants autonomy for Tibet within China, and greater freedom to practise the region’s form of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama sneaked out of Lhasa on March 10, 1959 after China cracked down on an uprising against its rule.
Tibet’s government-in-exile says that more than 80,000 people died between March and October of 1959 alone and that at least 200 more were killed last year when Chinese security forces clamped down on protests marking the anniversary.
China denies that it used violence to stop anniversary commemorations last year, saying instead that rioters were responsible for nearly two dozen deaths.
Tibet Lockdown as Anniversary Nears
(March 9, 2009) — Chinese authorities have imposed a security lockdown in Tibet ahead of the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that led to the Dalai Lama fleeing into exile.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of last year’s outbreak of anti-China protests, troops have been gathering in provinces neighbouring Tibet, with reports that military checkpoints had been set up and access to the internet cut off in the Himalayan region.
In Sichuan province, next to Tibet, soldiers armed with machine guns and anti-riot gear have been seen marching past the main town square while military convoys with armoured personnel carriers have been seen shuttling between towns in the province.
A senior Chinese official told the state-run Xinhua news agency on Monday that the controls would help prevent any unrest. Fu Hongyu, the Communist party commissar of the Ministry of Public Security’s Border Control Department, said the extra security would “fully protect the stability of Tibet’s frontier region”.
“To address stability protection in Tibet, we have deployed troops to strengthen controls along the Tibetan frontier at points of entry and on key sectors and roads”.
Tuesday marks a half century since Tibetans rose against Chinese rule, triggering what exiles say was a Chinese military response that killed 80,000 people. Police moves to block a march led by Buddhist monks to commemorate the 1959 uprising in Tibet’s main town of Lhasa last year led to anti-China protests and a crack down by the authorities.
Exiles estimate that more than 200 people were killed last year but China denies that it used violence, saying instead that rioters were responsible for nearly two dozen deaths.
In Dharamshala, the Indian town where Tibet’s government in exile sits, police have beefed up security amid fears that Tibetan groups could ignore appeals by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, for restrained commemorations. Nepal has also stepped up security by increasing police patrols along its border with China.
Call for Unity
Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama has called on all sects of Tibetan Buddhists to unite against Chinese rule. “Now we are in such a state where all the people following Tibetan Buddhist traditions and Tibetans-in-exile should be united,” he said at a religious conference in northern India on Sunday. “Otherwise if you remain isolated from one another then the forces, the strength of the unity is lost. So then how can we possibly achieve our goal of Tibetan struggle?”
A German newspaper on Friday quoted the Dalai Lama as saying that the situation in Tibet was very tense and that he feared an “explosion of violence” as the Himalayan region prepared to commemorate the anniversaries.
“Many Chinese citizens have armed themselves, and they are ready to shoot,” he was quoted as saying on the website of Frankfurter Rundschau. “It is a very tense situation. At any moment there could be an explosion of violence.”
Tibet: Key Dates
• 1950 Chinese forces invade Tibet
• 1959 Dalai Lama flees to exile in India after failed uprising against Chinese rule
• 1960s-70s Hundreds of monasteries destroyed during Chinese Cultural Revolution
• 1965 China announces creation of Tibet Autonomous Region
• 1989 Dalai Lama awarded Nobel Peace Prize for leading non-violent struggle for Tibet
• 2006 Opening of first rail line linking Tibet to rest of China
• 2008 Violent crackdown in Lhasa following anti-China protests to mark 1959 uprising
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